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Local EMS response time tops average
Director says operation meets public need
A fire truck and an abulance are stationed at the scene of a wreck on Highway 84 in March as workers extract an injured person from a vehicle. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon
As upstate officials continue to investigate Fulton County Emergency Medical Services after a patient died from response delays, Jim Turner said Liberty Regional Medical Center’s EMS is progressive and meets public needs.
"We got a great system," Turner said. "We're probably leaps and bounds ahead of a lot centers as far as dispatch."
The national benchmark for a good EMS response time is nine to 13 minutes, according to Turner.
LRMC’s EMS averages seven minutes for Hinesville calls and eight and a half minutes for county calls.
Time begins at tone-out and ends when the ambulance arrives on the scene.
Response times are important to Turner.
"We're always looking at our numbers," he said. "We want to make sure we have an adequate amount of ambulances at the times that we need them."
EMS usually runs four of its seven ambulances and one of two trucks in Long County.  
Each ambulance includes advanced life support equipment with at least a paramedic and an emergency medical technician on board.
While Turner said the service dispatches a lot of hospital transfers, at least 80 percent of calls are actual emergencies.
He stresses that if someone is unsure of whether a situation constitutes an emergency, it’s important to play it safe and call in.
Turner said the time a patient spends in question could worsen a legitimate medical condition.
"I would rather them just call," Turner said. "I don't want them to second-guess themselves."
Public communication officers at the county 911 center determine emergency situations and dispatch to EMS drivers accordingly.
Tom Wahl has been director of 911 for the past five years and knows firsthand that information provided by a caller helps dispatchers provide the most expedient service possible.
"The best source of location information is always the person on the phone," Wahl said.
With help from the phone
company, the center maintains a telephone database to track calls from landline phones. While
computers usually are used only to double-check a caller’s location, Wahl said they become the sole source of information when a caller cannot speak or if the caller hangs up.
In dealing with sometimes life-threatening cases, Wahl said the department does its own in-house training and takes it seriously.
"We don't want to risk anybody's safety, not only the public, but also the person that we're sending out on the calls," Wahl said.
On any given shift, there is a supervisor, four communications officers and a Georgia Crime Information Center operator on duty.
Classroom training lasts six-eight weeks
and communications officers receive two national certifications through the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials International.
The EMS staff includes full and part-time Georgia certi-
fied EMTs and paramedics who are required to re-certify every two years.
Staff members also are given a detailed orientation regarding the area's roads.
In his 11 years as EMS director, Turner said the department has been progressive.
Turner also complimented the 911 center and Wahl for "constantly working to make thing better and easier."
"Liberty County has done and the 911 center does a great job," Turner said.
Wahl admitted there is always potential for unpredictable situations, like equipment failures, but the department works to keep that chance small. 
"Simply put, our goal is to get the right people to the right place as quickly as possible," Wahl said. "That's what we strive to do."
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