Growing EMS in need of more space

By Maura Wery

Riley County EMS officials told county commissioners Monday that their agency needs more room for equipment and vehicles.

EMS director Larry Couchman said the facilities housing EMS today were created in the 1970s and were designed to house an ambulance load of four while handling 1,500 calls annually. In 2012, the call volume has risen to 4,400 and the service runs six ambulances, along with disaster and event vehicles.

Couchman said the needs also include additional living, office and training spaces. He said the department is so limited on space that equipment is being stored around the county.

Couchman asked commissioners to consider creating a new station, preferably near the county shops, to serve the northern areas of the county quicker and to help better distribute the equipment. He would also like to see some updates at the main station.

“It’s not just about getting the space,” Couchman said. “But the infrastructure needs to be improved.”

Commissioners agreed with Couchman that the department needs some space; the problem comes in finding funding, including for the people inside the additional space.

“We need to hire someone to look at the broader picture,” Commissioner Karen McCulloh said about the personnel costs of the project.  “We don’t have a lot of information to make a decision.”

Couchman said he foresees the new station having four 12-hour employees with two shifts, but he is unsure whether that will remain the same. He said that if the county keeps up its growth patterns, the need may go to 24-hour shifts in 15 to 20 years.

The uncertainty made commissioners uneasy and they suggested that Couchman explore the potential need with a consultant. Once that is done, it could lead to discussions with city or county officials.

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