The Board of Fire Commissioners for Benton County Fire District 1 unanimously approved a resolution to place a levy for emergency medical service on the Aug. 7 primary election ballot.
We recently held three public meetings to share information about how ambulance service would improve emergency medical care and response times for our citizens.
Overall, people were surprised to learn that we don’t own any ambulances. Currently, we rely on neighboring agencies to send an ambulance to transport patients to area hospitals. This takes longer to reach you in an emergency, which is why we are trying to improve service for area residents and purchase our own.
Currently, 90 percent of all EMS calls require patient transport to an area hospital. The EMS levy would purchase and staff two ambulances for our community. This would reduce ambulance response times by as much as seven minutes when a patient needs immediate care.
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How does time make a difference for an EMS call? During a heart attack, every minute that an emergency response is delayed, the possibility of recovery is reduced 7 percent to 10 percent. If someone is having a stroke, lack of blood flow to the brain can cause irreversible damage within six minutes. If someone is bleeding from a major artery or vein, we have six minutes again to stop that bleeding before loss of life may occur.
We have heard from people who support and those who oppose an EMS levy. There are diverse opinions on this issue, and we appreciate the time every one of our citizens took to attend a meeting or communicate with us on the topic.
One family shared their story of a husband/father waiting 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive after he slipped and fell on ice cracking two ribs. Another person came to tell us that they opposed all taxes of any kind. Still another told me that he had driven himself to the hospital after he cut his hand woodworking, so why did he need an ambulance?
My 10-year-old son was in a motor vehicle accident in Benton 1’s service area. Would an ambulance have reached him faster today if we had them? Yes. Would it have changed the outcome? Probably not. His injuries were too severe and he died.
My daughter, also in the car, had serious injuries and has made a full recovery. Today I am the proud grandfather of her two children, who bring me incredible joy. I still grieve for my son but count my blessings every day for my daughter’s life and my grandkids.
When someone you love is injured, you want an ambulance to arrive as fast as possible. Benton 1 cannot promise that now, and we have a responsibility to share that information with you and offer a proposal of how we can improve service for your loved ones. However, we are a volunteer fire district and operate on a shoestring budget. We do not have the revenue to provide ambulance service without an EMS levy.
Our 90 volunteer firefighters are fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, neighbors, brothers and sisters, as well as taxpayers. All of us see EMS save lives every day. We would be derelict in our duty if we didn’t give you the opportunity to vote on this ballot measure and improve service for our community.
Lonnie Click is chief of Benton County Fire District 1.