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EMS changes concern citizens

Some citizens at the southern end of Cumberland County are expressing concern over the recent changes to Cumberland Fire and EMS including fears an increased response time could mean the difference between life and death.

Monday, May 1, marked the beginning of a mutual aid agreement between the county, Prince Edward Volunteer Rescue Squad (PEVRS) and the Farmville Volunteer Fire Department (FVFD).

While for many years emergency calls made near the Farmville border of the county have been answered by PEVRS and FVFD, the mutual aid agreement ends that arrangement. Emergency calls are now answered by the Randolph District Volunteer Fire Department (RDVFD) at 2145 Cumberland Road and Cumberland Fire and EMS ambulance crews stationed in the middle of the county at the courthouse and in Cartersville at the northern end. Emergency crews from Farmville and Prince Edward will only respond to emergencies if Cumberland crews request assistance on a specific call.

While southern Cumberland does have a nearby fire department, the lower end of the county has no EMS station. And with PEVRS having answered 235 calls out of Cumberland County in 2020, citizens are worried this change in response could mean trouble.

Betty Mahan has lived on Mahan Road just beyond Kimberly Hills for 50 years. She said she was shocked to hear Prince Edward would no longer be answering her family’s emergency medical calls.

“The response time for them to get to us is 10 minutes. If one has to come from Cumberland, I’m sorry, they may say ‘slightly increased,’ but it is going to double or triple the response time,” Mahan said.

John Moone, who lives off of John Randolph Road, had similar concerns when he heard the news.

“The first thing that went through my mind is, realizing where Cumberland Court House is and realizing where Farmville is, the math just didn’t make sense in terms of response times,” he said.

Donna Morgan has several brothers and an 89-year-old stepfather who live on Mahan Road. Her stepfather is in poor health, as is one of her brothers. She worries a possible increased response time could be fatal for her family.

“Every minute is going to count if you have to call for 911,” she said.

Grace Ann Leach, who moved to Plank Road in 2019, said her husband has a heart condition and was in the hospital being treated within 20 minutes of his first heart attack several years ago. Doctors told her if any more time had passed the situation would have been much more grim.

Moone described a similar situation in which his girlfriend’s brother suffered a heart attack while staying with them years ago.

“Had it not been for the proximity of the first responders, he would have died,” he said.

Mahan and Leach expressed concern citizens had not been given an opportunity to give their input on the EMS changes in a public forum. Others wondered why a letter had not been sent notifying residents of the important change.

“A lot of people have no clue about this,” Mahan added.

Moone and Morgan agreed the county should consider going back to its original arrangement with Prince Edward. They believe another solution could be found in placing an EMS crew at the Randolph Fire Station.

“You take the people who can get to you the quickest. That’s the bottom line,” Moone added. “And whether that’s in another county or what is irrelevant. It’s whoever can respond to you the fastest, for the benefit of the citizens. That’s who should be first due.”

Mahan said she and others in the community are in the process of organization a petition to fight the changes to Cumberland’s fire and EMS response.

Saturday, May 8, Chief of Cumberland Fire and EMS Tom Perry said the first week of the agreement went well.  He said calls were handled timely and professionally. Perry said the county had received 23 calls for service throughout the week, 13 for EMS and 10 for fire services, with the largest percentage of calls in the central area of the county.

Perry said Cumberland did not require mutual aid assistance from other counties during the week and did receive two requests to provide assistance to another locality.