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Citizen petition calls for change

More than 100 people have signed a petition asking Cumberland County to reverse its decision to remove Prince Edward Volunteer Rescue Squad (PEVRS) as the main emergency medical service provider for residents at the southern end of the county.

The creator of the petition, Cumberland resident Edie Anderson, says the EMS changes tripled the amount of time it took for an ambulance to reach her home during a medical emergency. Citizens and even former 911 dispatchers are saying those precious minutes may cost lives.

For years, emergency calls made near the southern end of Cumberland were answered by PEVRS and Farmville Volunteer Fire Department. (FVFD)

However, a recent mutual aid agreement between Cumberland County, PEVRS and FVFD ended this arrangement, and emergency calls near the Farmville border of the county are now answered by 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 county’s northern end.

Emergency crews from Farmville and Prince Edward now only respond to emergencies if Cumberland crews request mutual aid assistance.

The move leaves southern Cumberland with no nearby EMS station, and after the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad (CVRS) closes its doors for good July 1, there will only be two ambulance crews in the county — a 12-hour paid crew stationed out of Cartersville and the 24-hour paid crew stationed at the courthouse.

Anderson, who lives on South Airport Road, says her husband’s life was unnecessarily endangered due to the mutual aid agreement which went into effect Monday, May 1.

Anderson said her husband suffers from a cardiac condition, and when the family had to call 911 for emergency medical help in 2017, it took 11 minutes for PEVRS crews to make it to their home. Emergency calls made in 2018 and 2019 took 11 and 12 minutes, respectively.

April 23, just a few days before the mutual aid agreement went into effect, another 911 call produced a response time of 11 minutes.

Anderson said after her husband suffered another medical emergency May 10, it took Cumberland EMS personnel 32 minutes to reach her home, almost three times as long as previous calls.

In April, Deanna Jones, executive director of PEVRS, said she was concerned the “decision to end the 50-plus year relationship” between PEVRS and the county would lead to an increased response time for residents south of Holman Mill Road, adding PEVRS responded to around 235 calls in Cumberland County in 2020.

Anderson said she heard via a friend that county officials and Cumberland Fire and EMS personnel would be hosting a meeting Thursday, June 3, at the Randolph Fire Station to talk with citizens about the fire and EMS changes and offer residents a chance to voice their concerns.

According to Anderson, during the meeting, Cumberland Fire and EMS Chief Tom Perry presented statistics during a slideshow which listed the average response time for crews to reach a resident at Airport/Plank Road from the Cumberland station as 17 minutes.

She says her 911 call made May 10 disproves this figure.

Like many, Anderson has concerns increased response times for emergency calls could be fatal. After creating a petition to do away with the mutual aid agreement, Anderson attended the Cumberland Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, June 8, to voice her concerns to the board.

During the public comments section of the meeting, Anderson told board members the purpose of a 911 calling system is “to connect the closest group which can handle the situation with the patient or victim in need as quickly as possible, not to punish a willing provider which is already doing an excellent job.”

Anderson presented the board with 115 signatures against the mutual aid agreement accompanied by a letter written by previous 911 dispatcher Frankie Todt.

“As a former emergency 911 dispatcher, I know how the system works and the importance of a timely response. Minutes mean lives,” wrote Todt, who currently works as a secretary at New Life Assembly of God located at the intersection of Mahan Road and Rt. 45.

In her letter, Todt said it takes 15 minutes to drive from her office to the nearest Cumberland rescue squad building and only seven minutes to drive to the PEVRS station.

“That’s twice the time, twice the bleedout, twice the loss of breath or strain on the heart from a heart attack. Twice the damage.”