YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Children at Towns County Child Development Center received a visit from Towns County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Thursday, July 18, and enjoyed an opportunity to learn about the functions of the newest ambulance added to the fleet. The children marveled at the lights and siren, and asked emergency medical staff questions about the onboard equipment used in emergency care.
Towns County EMS added the additional ambulance to its fleet in late-May. The updated steel module carries twice the capacity than the one it replaced, necessary in the event of a multi-casualty accident. The module features a generator and bright LED lighting, allowing medics to function more efficiently in dimly-lit environments.
The vehicle is equipped with a growler siren system which sounds on an ultra-low frequency, physically vibrating and alerting drivers and pedestrians in high-density areas, such as intersections.
Towns County EMS, which consists of full-time and part-time paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), responds to approximately 2,000 calls per year, additionally providing transfers from Chatuge Regional Hospital.
Feature Image: Towns County EMT Jonathan Wilson, answering the children’s questions.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, joined by Towns County 911 Director Marty Roberts, held a special-called meeting at the courthouse Tuesday, July 2, to sign a contract approving an upgraded 911 computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system for emergency services. “It’s been time to upgrade it,” Commissioner Bradshaw said, adding, “We’re at the point where we’re ready to move forward with it.”
911 Director Roberts explained that the improved system will be custom-tailored to Towns County, and that the program is expected to be up and running in early 2020. The cost of the enhanced system totals nearly $213,000, a price which Bradshaw defined as a “tremendous amount of money.” The charge is roughly half of the amount that the commissioner expected to spend on the program upon taking office, however, and Bradshaw expressed approval, referencing computer-aided dispatch as “the heartbeat of 911.”
911 dispatchers will receive additional training prior to the introduction of the advanced system, and the hardware and software – with servers, links, and terminals – are included in the modernized package. Roberts said that mobile CADs will be installed in ambulances for the first-time in county history, allowing paramedics to view precise locations of medical emergencies on maps, while exchanging critical information with the call center. The system will subsequently reduce radio traffic, freeing talk-time over the airwaves. The same company which has provided CAD service in Towns County for more than a decade will supply the innovated program.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Emergency Medical Services (TCEMS) added a new ambulance to its fleet over the Memorial weekend, an addition that has been in the works since last October. The emergency vehicle will join four other ambulances which serve Towns County, and will be housed at the west station in Young Harris. TCEMS delivered the ambulance from company, Frazer, which submitted the lowest bid from Houston, Tx.
FYN spoke with TCEMS Director Ken Nicholson who called the recent addition “top of the line,” adding that it has less miles, and will be easier to remount when necessary.
The updated module carries twice the capacity than the one it replaced, necessary in the event of a multi-casualty accident, and it is constructed of steel, TCEMS EMT Jim Shirley explained in October. The module features a generator and bright LED lighting, allowing medics to function more efficiently in dimly-lit emergency situations. The cab and chassis of the ambulance was purchased through Jacky Jones dealership. The process of the ambulance becoming operational was expected to take approximately nine months, with completion occurring two months ahead of schedule.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – A 12-year-old child suffered a bite from a juvenile copperhead snake Sunday, May 19, shortly before 9 p.m. The incident occurred in the Macedonia area, east of Hiawassee. FYN learned that the child was struck on the hand by the snake, and air-lifted to Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta for emergency treatment. Towns County Emergency Medical Services and Towns County Fire and Rescue responded to the incident.
Copperheads are pit vipers, like rattlesnakes and water moccasins. Pit vipers have “heat-sensory pits between eye and nostril on each side of head,” which are able to detect minute differences in temperatures so that the snakes can accurately strike the source of heat, which is often potential prey. “Copperhead behavior is very much like that of most other pit vipers,” said herpetologist Jeff Beane, collections manager of amphibians and reptiles at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
Copperheads bite more people in most years than any other U.S. species of snake, according to the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service. Fortunately, copperhead venom is not extremely potent. Unlike most venomous snakes, copperheads give no warning signs and strike almost immediately if they feel threatened. Copperheads have hemotoxic venom, said Beane, which means that a copperhead bite “often results in temporary tissue damage in the immediate area of bite.” Their bite may be painful but is “very rarely fatal to humans.” Children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems may have strong reactions to the venom, however, and anyone bitten by a copperhead should seek medical attention.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Realistic is the most accurate adjective to describe an active shooter drill which took place in Towns County on the morning of Friday, May 3, 2019. The full-scale training, directed jointly by the Georgia Mountains Healthcare Coalition and the Northeast Georgia Health System, was designed primarily to test the response of emergency medical providers.
The mock scenario took place outside of Dr. Samuel Church’s office, located behind Zaxby’s restaurant, off State Route 76 in eastern Hiawassee. “Victims” were staged – complete with graphic, cosmetic injuries – at various points throughout the crime scene. Some were in open view, while others were in less obvious locations. The narrative, previously reported by FYN, read that two, escaped inmates – members of the brutal “Ghostface Gang” – shot innocent bystanders outside of the medical provider’s office.
At 9:11 am, Towns County 911 dispatched emergency responders to the scene of the simulated crisis. Within one minute, law enforcement officers from Hiawassee Police Department and Towns County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the masacre, blocking the roadway with patrol vehicles before “fatally” subduing two shooters in skilled succession. One the threat had been neutralized, four Towns County Sheriff’s deputies secured a perimeter around the scene, and Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith could be seen directing a hysterical actor to a suitable location. Along with civilians, a law enforcement officer was said to have been “fatally shot” during the mock attack.
Towns County Fire and Rescue responders soon arrived at the location, lights flashing and sirens screaming, rendering aid while triaging “victims” according to the severity of their injuries. “Victims” who were fatally wounded were quickly tagged to alert incoming responders of their expired conditions.
Towns County Emergency Medical Service (EMS) paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) raced to the crisis, providing urgent treatment on multiple casualties. Three ambulances transported the “victims” to Chatuge Regional Hospital in Hiawassee, and three of the “patients” warranted an air-flight to trauma centers. FYN spoke with EMS Director Ken Nicholson during the drill as he assisted a role-player who suffered a gunshot wound to the abdominal area. “The training was laid out good,” the lead paramedic said. “The victims were scattered in different places, and it went well, working with available resources.”
“I think it went well,” agreed Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, once the exercise had concluded. “It was about as realistic as we could have hoped. While the drill was designed mainly to test medical response, the addition of law enforcement created an authentic scenario. The drill was realistic, and the stress involved helped induce the right mindset.” Chief Smith was the commanding officer of the drill, as it occurred within the city’s jurisdiction. Smith explained that in a real-life situation at that particular location, Main Street would have been partitioned to eliminate traffic, and the media would have likely been staged at a nearby plaza. Georgia Bureau of Investigation would have been tasked with investigating the tragic scene. Towns County Sheriff’s Captain Jim Couch explained that the Towns County Courthouse and Towns County Schools simulated a lock-down for the sake of security during the drill.
Towns County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Brandon Walls observed the agencies’ response techniques, noting areas that could benefit from additional training. Walls described the drill as “quality,” adding that EMA plans to “hotwash” items with the fire department. Clearview at Chatuge Clinic Director Wendell Farmer was present throughout the exercise, along with registered nurse and paramedic, Sherry Minchew, an artistic participant who created the detailed, physical effects on the “injured” role-players.
An active shooter drill was simultaneously held in Blairsville at the farmers market venue, with “patient” transports arriving at Union General Hospital.
Feature Photo: Towns County EMS transports a “gunshot victim” to an awaiting ambulance for treatment
YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Emergency 911 operators are a literal lifeline for those in need of assistance from law enforcement, fire departments, or urgent medical services. Annually adopted, April 14-20 marked “National Telecommunications Week,” a period set aside to recognize the crucial, behind-the-scene duties conducted by dispatchers. Towns County 911 hosted a barbeque dinner, complete with southern side dishes, at the Emergency Operations Center in Young Harris, April 22, in appreciation of the difficult, demanding jobs our local 911 operators perform.
Towns County dispatchers serve 12 hour shifts, with two operators assigned per stretch. One dispatcher receives emergency calls while relaying pertinent information to their partner. The second operator “tones” and transmits the details to the appropiate first responder units. At times, dispatchers find themselves juggling multiple calls, all the while remaining calm and composed despite the magnitude of a crisis.
“They’re locked in this room, twelve hours a day, and there’s times when there’s a lull, but when it gets busy, it’s just crazy,” 911 Director Marty Roberts told FYN. “They work really hard, and people kind of forget about them because they’re in here. When we have something like this, when we can recognize them, we let them know that we think about them, and acknowledge that they do a hard job. We’re proud of them. I’ve got some of the best dispatchers in the country. I’d put them up against anybody. They do a wonderful job.”
Deputies from Towns County Sheriff’s Office, personnel from Towns County Emergency Medical Services, and Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw attended the dinner. “I can’t thank 911 enough for all that they do,” Commissioner Bradshaw said. “They truly care. They put their heart and soul into it. They do an outstanding job.”
Feature Photo: (L-R) Towns County 911 Dispatchers: Presley Smith, Christine Vannus, Michelle Hedden, Ashley Walker, Trina Campbell, Robyn Henson, 911 Director Marty Roberts, Phillip Ivester, Karen Abercrombie, Wayne Canterberry
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is an integral agency to the well-being of the community, tasked with the responsibility of urgent response care at any given notice. Paramedics work long hours, often 24-48 hour shifts, and while county taxes fund the equipment necessary to perform medical duties, citizen donations provide appreciated comforts.
Donations are typically received “on scene” or delivered to EMS headquarters on Jack Dayton Circle in Young Harris. The contributions are then deposited in the county’s general fund, earmarked for the department to spend.
Towns County EMS Director Ken Nicholson and Paramedic Jim Shirley, along with the full medical responder division, would like to thank the community for the generous donations that they have received this year. A total of $595.00 was bestowed to Towns County EMS, allowing the department to purchase a pellet grill, cookware, and additional items for the ambulance dispatch station. Additionally, a local non-profit agency gifted the department with plates, utensils, and other components which help to make their “home-away-from-home” workplace more comfortable.
“We greatly appreciate any of the donations that we receive,” Jim Shirley expressed, “We don’t expect anything, but we appreciate everything.”
Feature Photo: (L-R) Towns County EMS Director Ken Nicholson with Towns County Paramedic Jim Shirley
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County opened enveloped bids on the purchase of a modernized ambulance module for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers, receiving two proposals from out-of-state companies. Towns County Paramedic Jim Shirley spoke on the issue Tuesday, Oct. 16, stating that the purchase will ultimately save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars over time. According to Shirley, the module is expected to function for a lifespan of 25 to 30 years.
Shirley explained that the current module, which is the ambulance area where the patients are transported, has experienced numerous issues, such as leaking and electrical difficulties, with remounts necessary on a frequent basis.
While the first bid, sent from a company located in Arkansas, did not include an actual quote, Towns County plans to contact the company to request a figure. The second bid, offered from a company based in Houston, TX, quoted slightly above $138,000 as the cost for the module.
The updated module will carry twice the capacity than the current , necessary in the event of a multi-casualty accident, and will be constructed of steel. Shirley explained that the module in current operation is contructed of wood. The module will feature a generator and bright LED lighting, allowing medics to function more efficiently in dimly-lit emergency situations.
The cab and chassis of the ambulance will be purchased through Jacky Jones dealership, an automotive company from where Towns County currently acquires government vehicles. The process of the ambulance becoming operational is expected to take approximately nine months.
While Shirley acknowledged that Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw is ultra-conservative in spending taxpayer funds, the paramedic praised the commissioner’s decision to purchase the upgraded ambulance. “I’m thankful the commissioner looks to the future, and not behind us,” Shirley said.
Feature Photo: A Towns County ambulance currently in service