A year-old training program means 175 Columbia-Richland firefighters now are able to drive ambulances in a life-saving change in policy.
In addition, about 20 firefighters have been trained as emergency medical technicians, said Michael Byrd, Richland County director of emergency services. “We feel like that’s going to be a big help in stabilizing critical patients at the scene, where they can work with paramedics,” he said.
Tuesday, Columbia and Richland County officials hold a 10 a.m. news conference to update the public on the training program. The event will be at fire department headquarters, 1800 Laurel St.
The changes come after the 2009 death of a 3-year-old whose rush to the hospital was delayed because both responding EMS workers needed to tend to him, leaving no one to drive the ambulance. Firefighters on the scene were helpless but later spoke out against the city-county policy that kept firefighters from driving ambulances.
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The county coroner said later the four-minute delay did not contribute to little Jaden Myers-Pugh’s death.
The publicity, though, motivated public officials to act.
Officials said their goal was to have about half the force of 449 firefighters qualified to drive ambulances by the end of the year.
“This is a positive step in the right direction to ensure that anytime EMS needs our assistance, we’ll be able to render it,” city-county fire chief Aubrey Jenkins said Monday.
The change in policy was formalized this summer through an intergovernmental agreement. But the city-run fire department and county-run emergency services department did not wait to establish training programs, which began about a year ago.
Byrd said he wants to have one emergency medical technical on each first-to-arrive engine company.