City of Savannah calling to enhance emergency services for firefighters

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The city of Savannah says it wants to get more out of all its 300 plus firefighters stationed around the city.

In addition to responding to crashes, structure fires and other situations, firefighters could soon be giving basic life support if they beat an ambulance crew to the scene. In addition to the EMT training, the city wants to use funds freed up by the proposed fire fee to pay for an Emergency Medical Services Plan.

The search for a firm to conduct that study ended back in October, and part of what the proposal asked for was a plan to move firefighters into basic and advanced life support services. That's something all of Chatham County, Savannah included, gets already.

"Right now, the city of Savannah gets EMS service for free from Chatham Emergency Service. They don't pay a penny into it," said Chuck Kearns, CEO, Chatham Emergency Services.

The city has said it wants to move toward an eight-minute EMS response time anywhere inside city limits. Kearns maintains they already have that too.

"Our response times are highly regulated. We have oversight by both the State of Georgia, who maintains control of EMS authority state-wide, and also Chatham County. Our response times are reviewed no less often than once a month, usually on a weekly basis by a county contract manager," he said.

To Kearns, putting any funds - freed up by what's generated by the fire fee or not - toward expanding this service, doesn't make any sense. He says that sentiment is echoed at the state level.

"The medical director for the EMS system has said over and over again, why are they doing this? What problem are they trying to fix and where is the data to support their position? There's been nothing presented. There's been no communication," Kearns said. "So our question is, why is it not okay to force the duplication of the expense of police departments, but it is okay to force the increased expense of duplicating free service that's already meeting all the response time requirements of both the state of Georgia and Chatham County?'

The city says they now want a five-minute response for EMS Services, adding they want the best possible response rate for the security and safety of citizens.

With the potential expansion of services, city officials say they are not interested in getting into the transport business.

It is important to note that none of this will go into effect without council's vote to approve the budget with the fire fee included.

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