FEMA sends 4 paramedics to Brunswick Co. to alleviate influx of emergency calls

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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — There’s a need for first responders across the country, including in the Cape Fear region, and FEMA is sending help.

In response to a resource request submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), North Carolina has received 25 Advanced Life Support ambulances each with a two-person crew of EMS providers. Two of those ambulances along with four paramedics were sent to Brunswick County.

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County Director of Emergency Services Edward Conrow said the crew members arrived around 8:30 am on Tuesday morning. After a short briefing, they were stationed and sent out on calls just after 9:00 am.

“Two is definitely going to put a big dent in what we need, give us a little breathing room. More than that, we would definitely take more, but I think two is definitely going to work,” Conrow said.

The staff is coming from a medical transportation company out of Ohio that is contracted by FEMA. They are supposed to be here for 10 days, but Conrow said they will evaluate in a few days to see if their contracts can be renewed for longer.

Their service comes with no cost to the county. The crews brought their own ambulances and equipment, and their services are covered by federal funds.

Brunswick County Emergency Medical Services Deputy Director Lyle Johnston said emergency services have responded to about 18,000 calls so far this year. They’re on track to respond to about 24,000 calls total, making it their busiest year ever.

“This year, from 2020 to 2021 we’re looking at about a 14% increase [in call volume],” Johnston said. “Our folks are on the road from the time they come on duty to the time they get off duty, have very little time to write the reports that they have to write and do that kind of stuff. Sometimes little to no chance to get a meal break during their shift.”

While hospitals are busy with COVID-19 patients, Conrow said there are a few reasons for the influx of calls.

“A lot of it’s related to the growth Brunswick County has, it’s related to COVID-19 increased case counts again,” Conrow said. “It’s impacted also by the hospital systems being overwhelmed which are causing delays at the hospital.”

In the long run, Conrow said they are working to create more jobs to help address the growth the county is seeing.

Johnston reassures county residents that the level of care will remain the same.

“These folks that have come in to help are paramedic level providers like we are,” he said. “We’re going to make sure the citizens of Brunswick County are taken care of to the best of our ability and the quickest amount of time that we can.”

Conrow added they have struggled to keep emergency services fully staffed for several reasons, from the stress of the job to family and medical leave. The department is hiring and anyone interested in a career in Emergency Management can reach out to the staff with questions.