Study on EMS services found progress, room for improvement

By Matt Leonard

Staff writer

SURRY — The follow-up to a study of Surry County’s emergency management services found that services have improved, but continues to lack coordination and accountability.

Communication between the volunteer stations and the county is “mostly non-existent,” said one chief.

The original study was conducted in 2007 and provided the county with 17 findings and 36 recommendations for both fire and emergency medical services. The study and its recent follow-up were conducted by Springsted, a public sector advising group based in Richmond.

John Anzivino presented the findings on behalf of Springsted to last month’s Surry County Board of Supervisors meeting saying the county had made “tremendous progress” since 2007. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

He said the county government had increased its financial support for emergency services and that the chiefs for the different departments greatly appreciated that, but there was little accountability when it came to how that increase in funding was then spent.

“We found that because it is public money being invested in a public service that there needs to be more accountability in regard to the expenditure of those funds,” Anzivino told the board.

Between 2005 and 2014 Surry more than doubled its funding for fire and EMS, placing the county’s total spending at $611,161 in 2014.

The main areas of recommendation that came from the follow-up report were need for better training, better coordination between departments and increased communication with the county.

The chiefs for the Claremont, Dendron and Surry volunteer fire departments and Surry Volunteer Rescue Squad were interviewed for the report.

All of the chiefs interviewed said communication with the county was difficult.

Chief Mike Reeson of Claremont said the relationship with the county “was strained in the past, had improved through the Operations Committee, but had deteriorated with the departure of the former assistant county administrator and the debate which occurred over apparatus purchases.”

The relationship with the county is “mostly non-existent,” according to Dendron Chief John Stewart.

Training between departments has improved, the report said. But it recommended that training be more coordinated between the different departments. It said coordination also needs to be improved with purchasing of equipment and equipment upkeep.

These areas of concern can be fixed with a couple easy steps, Anzivino told the board.

He said the county needed to invest in a position that was wholly responsibly for the coordination of emergency services. This person would be responsible for standardizing training practices, how the departments bought equipment and how they work together when they needed to.

He also recommended that the county reinstate the operations commission, which was dissolved in the county due to funding issues, he said.

The board voted to adopt the study and its findings and work on improving emergency services in the areas outlined in its findings. They will be holding a board work session to determine how to move forward with the findings.  {/mprestriction}