Cutting response time: New EMS station opens

Becky Campbell • Jun 15, 2012 at 9:25 PM

Henry Walker still remembers the day back in the 1970s when he and his father were working at their Sulphur Springs dairy barn and his dad got injured.

They needed medical assistance, so they called for an ambulance, Walker said.

“I didn’t think that ambulance was ever going to get here,” he said Friday, just before a new EMS station was dedicated in memory of his parents, H.M. and Flora Walker.

The station is located on Highway 81N just past the crossroads of Highway 81 and Highway 75.

It’s likely the help that came to assist the elder Walker came from Johnson City. But that won’t be the case anymore with Walker’s donation of a half-acre of prime agricultural land to allow the county to build a new station.

The location, Station 11 for the Washington County/Johnson City EMS, began taking calls on Monday. Officials gathered Friday for the pomp and circumstance of the grand opening and ribbon cutting.

In the first four days, paramedics who work there responded to nine calls for help.

The first call, handled by Paramedic Fred Kemp, was to assist a 74-year-old woman who had fallen at a nearby church. He arrived within a few minutes.

If the station wasn’t there, a unit from Gray or Jonesborough would have responded with more than double the response time, said EMS Director Allen Taylor.

Depending on the time of day and the amount of traffic, a unit responding from Gray would need eight to 10 minutes to arrive and a unit from Jonesborough would need 15 to 16 minutes.

Taylor said the number of calls was right where he expected it would be. EMS conducted a three-month study last year to determine the effectiveness of a station in Sulphur Springs. There were actually more calls than he expected during that study, which emphasized the need for a station there.

For now, the station will have one paramedic there at all times. If calls increase, the staffing could as well.

Taylor said he hired new employees because of the added station, but has used seasoned paramedics to run calls there.

Walker said he hopes he never needs any help from the station, but he’s glad it’s there for the community.

“We needed it,” he said, and he thinks his parents and grandparents — who settled on that farmland in the 1880s — would be pleased with his decision to donate the small portion.

A crowd of citizens attended the opening, including Walker and his family, several county commissioners — particularly those appointed to a project committee for the station — state representatives and local officials.

Sheriff Ed Graybeal said he was pleased that the station has one small room set aside as a substation for his officers.

In addition to praises for Walker’s land donation, County Mayor Dan Eldridge also commended Sulphur Springs resident Willy Hilbert, who was instrumental in getting the conversation started about the community’s need for the station.

The station has two bedrooms, a laundry room, bathroom, kitchen and sitting area. And it has a pretty great view of the rolling farmland of Washington County as well.

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