Union Area Ambulance District Administrator Ken Koch said 2017 was a busy year.
The district saw a slight decrease in the number of responses in 2017 compared to 2016, from 2,994 in 2016 to 2,321 last year.
There was a continued increase in narcotics overdoses, Koch noted.
In 2017, the department handled 66 suspected drug overdoses, down slightly from 70 in 2016.
During several months in 2017, Koch said the Union Area Ambulance District ranked the highest in the county for the amount Narcan administered. Narcan is a lifesaving overdose reversal drug carried by all law enforcement and EMS in Union.
“That continues to be one of the sad (types of) calls. It’s such a powerful addiction,” Koch said.
“People know what it does, but they still take their chances,” added Tim Spencer, assistant chief.
In 2017, the two biggest causes of injury categories were falls and motor vehicle accidents, at 221 and 185 respectively.
In 2016, there were 288 responses for falls and 320 for motor vehicle crashes.
One of the big accomplishments of 2017 is that the ambulance district rolled back estate and personal property tax levy a year ahead of schedule.
In 2017, the department aimed to upgrade equipment.
Two ambulance trucks were remounted with new chassis and were refurbished for about $230,000 total. Koch noted that purchasing one new vehicle would have cost about the same amount.
Additionally, two new EKG monitors were purchased.
The district had three monitors but had five trucks. Two had old equipment that was used when those trucks had to be used.
“They’ve very important tools in our business,” Koch said. The monitors were approximately $30,000 each.
In terms of health and safety, the district purchased Stryker power stretchers, which are powered via a hydraulic cylinder, as opposed to being “body powered,” or manually lifted.
“For the average crew member, it saves a lot of lifting in a year,” Koch noted, adding that injuries are common among EMTs because of heavy lifting and twisting.
A portable UV air and surface sterilizer was purchased. The sterilizer can be used in the ambulances and throughout the station.
“It’s been getting a workout,” Koch said.
Some new portable radios were purchased, as well as new turnout gear for full-time personnel.
Light renovations were made at House 1.
Another accomplishment was the addition of one new full-time staff member at each of the district’s three platoons, Koch said. There are a total of 15 people on the platoon schedule, plus two other full-time staff members. The district has about 35 part-time EMTs and paramedics.
Having three crews available helps during busy times and with providing mutual aid to surrounding districts.
Koch said increasing personnel salaries was another goal in 2017 that was met. Full-time and part-time salaries were adjusted.
This year, Koch said the district will continue to look at health and safety measures.
One goal is to look into the purchase of a power loader, which helps load stretchers into the back of the ambulance.
“Again, we’re getting away from the twisting and turning because we’re (injuring) shoulders, lower backs and knees,” he said.
Koch said he’d also like to be more involved in the community. Planning for a safety crusade, which has been held for the past two years, is underway.
The district already hosts monthly blood pressure/blood sugar checks at the Union Senior Center, which it plans to continue this year.
Some light remodeling will continue with vinyl flooring at the House 1.