Johnson County fire departments sharing resources to cut costs, increase public safety

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WHITELAND, Ind. – Two Johnson County fire departments say they are saving taxpayer money and improving response times by co-staffing an ambulance for 12 hours each day.

In January, the Bargersville Fire Department began stationing one of its paramedics in an ambulance at the Whiteland Fire Department. For the last six months, the Bargersville paramedic has been working alongside a Whiteland Fire Department E.M.T. to respond to emergency runs in the town of Whiteland.

“We split the cost of the employees,” said Bargersville Fire Chief Jason Ramey. “They manage the vehicle, the maintenance and things. We manage the ALS equipment, heart monitors, our narcotics.”

“We now have an ALS, a medic staffed truck, 12-hours a day, with a paramedic on the truck and an EMT,” said Whiteland Fire Chief Eric Funkhouser. “Every single day, 12-hours a day, 7-days a week.”

It’s the first time the town of Whiteland has had its own fully-staffed ambulance. Until January, the department relied on a volunteer paramedic to respond to ambulance calls. In other cases, the department had to rely on Bargersville and other surrounding departments or private ambulance services for ambulance runs.

“It’s able to get out the door, it’s able to get to all the residents around here when they call 911,” Funkhouser said. “We’ve cut down on our response times.”

Ramey said the joint venture not only means improved response times for Whiteland, it also means the Bargersville ambulance spends less time responding to Whiteland 911 calls.

“It can be an hour to an hour and a half rotation to get that truck back in service,” Ramey said. “And we all just used to sit around and hope nothing happened in the meantime.”

Co-staffing the ambulance means Whiteland doesn’t have to pay the roughly $87,000 annual paramedic salary cost, and Bargersville doesn’t have to pay the $43,000 annual EMT salary. The Whiteland Fire Department covers costs associated with the ambulance itself. Bargersville Fire Department covers the cost of heart monitors, medications and other medical ALS equipment.

Bargersville paramedic, Katrina Held sees the joint venture as a creative way for the two departments to combine public safety efforts.

“I think it’s a good transition for us when the two communities can come together and help fill the void,” Held said. “I come from a small town that doesn’t have an ALS truck and I understand how long our response times can be. So I was excited that the two communities were coming together so we could bridge that gap.”

Held said having the ambulance at the Whiteland Fire Department proved crucial for a patient in the early stages of a heart attack just a couple weeks ago.

“Having the truck here helped because we were able to get him to that higher level of care much faster,” she said. “I’m thankful that we were here instead of him waiting an additional 5 to 7 minutes for another medic.”

Both department chiefs say if the joint operation continues to prove successful, they hope to begin staffing the ambulance 24-hours a day.

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