Perry firefighters gear up for first responder duty

PERRY TWP. – Perry Township volunteer firefighters are going forward with their plans to offer first responder medical service, thanks to the generosity of their fellow first responders.

“The area departments actually got involved,” Fire Chief Bruce Whitcher said.

Perry Township volunteers were going to have several fundraisers this year to continue raising funds to cover startup costs, but some of the other fire departments offered some of their equipment they were no longer using.

One department got new backboards and gave the old ones to Perry. A business in the township donated what’s called a jump bag, which was described as a trauma bag containing a blood pressure cup and other needed equipment. An area ambulance service donated a neck brace and an ambu bag used for CPR.

Perry Township firefighters already have two automated external defibrillators which trustees agreed to purchase at a cost of $3,190 last year after Whitcher noted the National Fire Protection Agency added them to the list of equipment that’s supposed to be on a fire truck.

Whitcher raised the issue of the first responder program at Monday’s trustee meeting, along with several other firefighters who asked some questions. They were reminded by Trustee Chairman Cliff Mix that the trustees had already told them they supported the program, but with the understanding that the township can’t spend any money on it.

Firefighters had been given a copy of a resolution from the trustees in support of the program when they tried to apply for a grant from the Salem Community Foundation and learned they needed to file paperwork for official non-profit status. They’re still working on getting the non-profit designation through the state.

Whitcher said the program could start in about six weeks, once the department gets a drug license to be able to dispense oxygen and saline, finalizes plans with the medical director for the program and works on protocols. He said they have enough equipment to stock two trucks, one at the north station and one at the south station.

He said the firefighters are already covered under the township’s liability insurance, so there’s no extra cost for that, which township Fiscal Officer Susan Johnston confirmed.

Whitcher said the department already has 11 state-certified EMTs and two qualified with first responder basic. They’ll be applying for a grant to cover training costs for the firefighters who don’t have the first responder basic qualification. The EMTs can offer life-saving measures on a medical call once the first responder program is in place.

“For a group of people who are full volunteers who are willing to step up for the community, it’s really exciting. It benefits the citizens of the township – it benefits the community,” Whitcher said.

This will also allow the department to have refusal forms for people to sign when they refuse to go to the hospital, such as after a fall, which will add some protection for the department. When they give a lift assist now, they don’t have that protection.

Whitcher stressed that the department will not transport patients – they’ll be responding to medicals to help out ambulance crews and be able to help injured people at accident scenes. The department will cover the annual cost for the drug license, $114, out of money from fundraisers.

In other fire department business, trustees approved a purchase of 10 batteries for the department’s radios at a cost of $400. Johnston also said the department is applying for an equipment grant of $14,990 through the State Fire Marshal’s office to cover the cost of three sets of turnout gear and 11 Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus carbon cylinders. The cylinders cost $765 each. The turnout gear cost $1,905 each, with the boots costing $270. The fire department last received the equipment grant in 2011 for $10,000, she said.

In personnel matters, the trustees entered into an executive session, then returned into open session and hired Jacob Aegerter as a part-time worker for the road department and Autumn Dean as a part-time police officer. Both are probationary for 90 days.

Trustee Don Kendrick announced two zoning permits have been issued so far this year.

The next trustee meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 10.