Having an accident or a medical emergency is never a good thing - but should it occur, Gwinnett County is probably the best place for it to happen.
Officials from Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services called a press conference Wednesday to announce that GCFES has recently received a prestigious accreditation for its paramedic training program. Not only is GCFES the first fire department in the state to receive this accreditation, but it is also one of only two in the southeast and one of very few in the nation. The only other agency in Georgia that carries the accreditation is GCFES’s partners in the endeavor, Gwinnett Technical College.
“Emergency medical calls are a large part of what we do here in Gwinnett, so we want to provide residents with the very best care. Training our own personnel will enhance our response capabilities, allowing us to provide three core services at once: fire protection, emergency medical care and ambulance transport services,” said Fire Chief Bill Myers. “Having firefighters on an ambulance reduces lowers Gwinnett County’s ISO rating, resulting in lower insurance premiums for homeowners, and having paramedics on our first-responding fire trucks decreases response times. It is a win-win for everyone.”
The accreditation was issued to GCFES by the Committee on Accreditation for Emergency Medical Service Professions and it comes after a yearlong process of self-evaluation by GCFES paramedic training program that began in 2010.
The National Registry of EMT’s Board of Directors voted in 2008 to require paramedic students to attend an accredited program before taking the national certification test. Myers said with GCFES receiving this accreditation, fire department personnel will get credit towards an associate degree in paramedicine that they can complete through Gwinnett Tech. GCFES will continue to train personnel to become paramedics, but they can continue their education through Gwinnett Tech. Myers said in order to qualify for the position of battalion chief at least an associate degree is required.
The EMTs Board of Directors introduced this national accreditation and test requirement in order to increase the professionalism in the field of emergency medical services. It has to be achieved by 2013, but Gwinnett County decided to go ahead and get it early.
“The accreditation process was very detailed and time consuming, but after many months of looking at what we do, we noticed Gwinnett was already meeting a majority of the commission’s requirements. We simply needed to provide documentation showing we perform these tasks,” said Training Battalion Chief Rodney Dawson.
Myers said the department is the largest fire service district in Georgia and runs 64,000 calls a year, 70 percent of those for medical emergencies. The first accredited paramedic trained class will graduate in March 2012. The program takes approximately 14 months to complete and comprises of 576 classroom hours, 112 lab hours and 320 clinical hours.
Myers said despite budget constraints, it was being able to guarantee top rate services through accreditations like this that persuaded the county not to consider privatizing such services, but instead to keep them under the county government's jurisdiction. He said they can provide "better than a combat medic" treatment while preparing a victim for transportation to an emergency room and the procedure from start to arrival at the emergency room averages 33 minutes. He said the desired time is 30 minutes, but Gwinnett's traffic contributes to it being slightly over.
Following the press conference, attendees were treated to a demonstration of a simulated medical emergency in the parking lot of the Fire Department headquarters in Lawrenceville. (see video).