An emergency call which caused a question to be raised over the protocol for toning out the Perry Township Fire Department happened a little differently than originally described.
Columbiana County Sheriff Ray Stone said Tuesday that he listened to the dispatch tapes related to the call on March 11 and no one from his office ever said "no" when the fire department's assistance was requested.
He also sent copies of the tapes to the Perry Township Trustees so they could hear for themselves what was said and what wasn't said, saying "let the trustees decide whether it's right or wrong."
According to the tapes, which the Salem News acquired from the Sheriff's Office via email, the first call was answered by the Sheriff's Office via the 9-1-1 line. A resident reported a man, possibly having a heart attack, who was on the floor and not getting up. Via one-button transfer, the call was sent to KLG and the resident confirmed the address and provided a call back number. In a second recording, Perry Township Police Det. Steve Smith can be heard telling Sheriff's Office dispatch that he would be at the address in question.
The third recording was KLG Ambulance calling the Perry Township Fire Department emergency line, which is answered by the Sheriff's Office. The person can be heard saying "this is KLG Ambulance. We've got a non-breather. We're going to need some backup." They
also mentioned the address.
"Perry Township is not first responders. They have a police officer on scene," the Sheriff's Office dispatcher said.
KLG then answered, "All right. They have a police officer there? Okay, thank you."
According to Perry Township Police Chief Mike Emigh, Smith was first on the scene and started trying to resuscitate the person, who was reportedly in full arrest, by using an automated external defibrillator and CPR. Emigh said that township police officers are trained in basic life support, including CPR and the use of an AED. The cruisers are equipped with AEDs. He said Smith continued CPR until KLG arrived and took over CPR and then transported the person to the hospital. During the meeting Monday, it was reported the person died, with Stone saying it was his understanding the person was dead at the scene, which Emigh also said.
Perry Township firefighters have been working on becoming first responders, but they're not there yet, still requiring a drug license and a review by the prosecutor's office to make sure everything's legal. The trustees gave them the go-ahead and they've secured the equipment needed to offer the service, which will allow them to respond to medical calls and give some basic treatment until an ambulance arrives. Even when the first responder service is up and running, the fire department won't be authorized to transport.
The fire department also has AEDs and personnel have been trained in their use, but since Smith was already there doing CPR and using an AED, Stone said there was nothing the fire department could have done if they had responded.
As for the protocol, Stone said they were probably correct in what it says. The fire department questioned why they weren't toned out when requested.
The protocol dated March 12, 2013 for the Sheriff's Office to tone out the fire department says, under the medical heading: all requests from any ambulance company for assistance; any request from a Perry Township resident for a lift assist; any reports of a non-breather or choking victim or other requests for the Perry Township Fire Department to provide assistance.
Fire Chief Bruce Whitcher had asked about the situation at Monday night's trustee meeting, saying he was curious if anybody had checked into why the ambulance company was told no when requesting the fire department. He was going by what he was told and said he had called Trustee Vice Chairman Don Rudibaugh after the incident occurred.
At the meeting, Rudibaugh noted what the protocol says and said the fire department should have been called out. He said he would be asking the Sheriff's Office for clarification on the protocol. He could not be reached for comment Thursday, with a message left at his home.
Whitcher said he was concerned for the safety of the people and if someone calls for the fire department, why question them?
"Why are we questioning things when we have signed, cut and dry, protocols?" he said during a phone call Tuesday.
The trustees next regular meeting falls on April 14.