BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – When experiencing a medical emergency. One thing many people count on is a quick response by medical professionals. In some rural communities, those responses may take a while.
Black River Falls has the only ambulance service in Jackson County. While showing off her gear bag, advanced EMT, Melissa Gaier says, ” This has pretty much a little bit of everything that we use in it, including an oxygen tank
Jody Stoker, the Black River Falls Fire and Rescue Chief says, “The last couple of years we’ve averaged about 2200 EMS calls and about 320 fire calls. So that’s quite a bit for a volunteer or combination organization.”
When responding to those calls, EMS staff say getting there quick is critical. Gaier explains, “Early CPR is one of the things that is very important for survival in a cardiac arrest event. Anything really serious like that, like cardiac-related or stroke-related, time is of the essence of those things.
The Black River Falls Fire Rescue has a coverage area of more than 1,000 miles and with that large coverage area comes longer response times. Stokler explains, “If we have to go towards City Point, which fortunately that’s a lower population area, but there’s still people that reside out there. It takes us anywhere from 25 to 35 minutes to get there depending on where the location is.”
But distance traveled is not the only thing that contributes to those longer response times. Staffing contributes to this as well. Stoker says, “Even in the city, sometimes just due to staffing levels when there’s multiple ambulances out. Once we get out to some of those outlying areas, you know, it’s a lot of travel time to get there treat the patient in the near term and where they’re going to be transported to.”
Jody Stoker, the Black River Falls Fire and Rescue Chief says first responders are also in other areas in the county, helping with medical emergencies when needed. He says, “They get paged out at the same time. We do. And they can get there and they can start providing care before we arrive in the ambulance.”
Despite possible wait times for first responders. EMS staff say they will continue to do what they can to get there as soon as possible.
Stoker says Black River Falls Fire and Rescue currently has around half of their full-time positions filled but are able to fill the rest of those hours with part-time staff.