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EMS director: Substation, ambulance needed in Brooklet area
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    Bulloch County is so large it often takes an ambulance 15 minutes or more to reach it's destination. That's not good, especially when a life is in danger.
    Bulloch County Emergency Medical Service Director Lee Eckles gave a presentation Tuesday during a Bulloch County Commission meeting that pointed out the urgent need for an EMS substation in the Brooklet area.
    "It's all about geography," he said. "How far the ambulance is away from the incident."
    EMS can respond to 75 percent of Candler County in less  time than an ambulance can reach Eldora Farms, a remote community in extreme southern Bulloch County near Ellabell, he said.
    With Bulloch County EMS located in Statesboro on West Grady Street, " We can respond six miles into Tattnall County in the time we can get  to Eldora Farms," he said. Bulloch County desperately needs a Brooklet-area substation that "could reduce response time in 52 percent of Bulloch County," Eckles said.
    In January, 31 out of 51 calls that took more than 15 minutes response time could have been reduced drastically by having a Brooklet substation, he said. In February, 35 of 51 calls taking more than 15 minutes could have been reduced by an EMS substation in that area.
    Out of 4,500 calls taken by EMS since January, 506 involved a response time 15 minutes or more, he said.
    Adding a fourth staffed ambulance and a substation, manned by six full time and three part time EMTs would cost an approximate $422,825, he said. But, "We're already spending that in overtime." A new substation and crew would offset the overtime made by existing personnel and would subsequently pay for itself while improving safety for residents in southern Bulloch. "This is not voodoo economics," Eckles said.
    The new substation is a necessity that will become even more needed as Bulloch's population grows, especially in the southern region. Faster response times are crucial.
    As Eckles spoke, an alarm suddenly sounded. It was a timer set for 15 minutes, a prop he used to demonstrate how long 15 minutes can be when a life is at stake.
    "Imagine sitting and watching someone who can't breathe for that length of time," he said.  "These are not just numbers. These are people we have responded to."
    Some response times, due to several circumstances including busy days and distance from patients, have been up to 30 minutes, he said.
    "Don't think 15 minutes is a great response time, because it isn't," he told commissioners. "It's terrible."
    A substation would not affect the Bulloch County First Responder program, which trains volunteer firefighters to respond to emergencies where they  may be closer than EMTs. "We're not giving that up," he said. "It does make a difference, although it's very, very small."
    Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch said it's time to take action to improve the EMS services. "We've come a long way in a lot of public safety areas. I believe EMS is going to be the next area we're going to have to address," he said, adding that the Bulloch County 911 and Bulloch County Jail projects have reached completion.
    The Bulloch County Fire Department is  the most recent public safety project, and "EMS is going to be the next big thrust we're going to have to make. We're kind of getting into the position we can't put it off any longer" because of population growth, he said.
    Commissioners did not take any action during the workshop meeting regarding the issue, but acknowledged it is a project that needs to move forward soon.
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