Granville offers first response to its Route 100 neighbors

GRANVILLE — The tiny Granville Fire Department is taking on a huge responsibility for itself and two neighboring communities. It has agreed to spearhead first-response services for Granville, Hancock and Rochester in the wake of last year’s decision by White River Valley Ambulance Inc. (WRVA) to close its Route 100 branch.
Closure of the WRVA’s local ambulance garage, next to Hancock Building Supply, created some anxiety within the three Route 100 communities, two of which (Hancock and Granville) are located in Addison County. Suddenly, WRVA’s closest location was in Bethel, leaving area residents wondering how long it might take them to receive emergency medical care for a stroke, heart attack or other life threatening condition.
“In Granville, there are times you have to wait 30 minutes or more (for an ambulance), which seems like forever,” said Granville Fire Chief Danial Sargent. “We have had situations where all of WRVA’s rigs were out and we’ve had to call Mad River Valley Ambulance Service. That can take an hour.”
Fortunately, WRVA’s departure from Hancock — something the organization decided to do because the low volume of Route 100-area calls could not sustain the service — has not contributed to any patient fatalities due to the longer ambulance response time from Bethel, according to Sargent. But leaders in all three towns don’t want to tempt fate, so they have signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the Granville Fire Department to coordinate first-response services for the communities.
“We really need to pull together,” Sargent said.
Fortunately, the Granville Fire Department is well-positioned to take on the new responsibility, according to Sargent. The department received its first-response licensure from the state of Vermont back in 2010. The outfit has a rescue vehicle equipped with the jaws of life, backboards, defibrillators, oxygen tanks and other emergency equipment and tools.
Sargent said his force currently has four members EMT-certified to deliver first-response services, and another five are ready to take the test. Granville is looking for volunteers in Hancock and Rochester to add to the first-response network.
He stressed that the Granville first responders’ job is simply to stabilize the patient until an ambulance arrives. The service does not include transportation to hospitals, though Sargent believes such an amenity could be added sometime in the future depending on what the three communities want.
Granville charges its Hancock and Rochester partners $50 per first-response call, with the proceeds used to help the volunteers maintain their certification and to replace equipment when needed.
WRVA, according to Sargent, was responding to a combined total of around 120 calls per year in the three Route 100 communities, with the majority of them in Rochester. The Granville Fire Department is now taking on first-response chores for those calls. The team is being toned out via 911 calls through the Vermont State Police’s Rockingham barracks.
Hancock’s agreement with Granville extends through this fiscal year (until June 30, 2016).
“This is to get us through FY ’16 to see how this plays out,” said Hancock Selectwoman Monica Collins. “(Granville) will come up with more budget numbers to see what to do next year.”
Sticking with Granville might become a long-term arrangement, Hancock officials noted. Neither volunteer nor private ambulance companies are clamoring to set up shop in the Route 100 area.
“We really don’t have many options because of our remote location,” Collins said. “I don’t see us starting our own first response; we are such a small town.”
And Collins noted that local residents in rural towns are increasingly working in more urban centers, thereby limiting their availability for civic service on rescue squads.
“There’s less of a volunteer base,” she said.
Robert Meagher is a Rochester selectman who has represented his community’s interests in the first-response debate. He said he and other Rochester residents are grateful to Granville for taking a lead in the first-response service. Meagher also hopes to see Rochester residents step forward to increase Granville’s stock of volunteers.
“We want to support (Granville) in any way we can,” Meagher said.
Once Granville First Response is stocked with a good number of volunteers, the three towns can look at attracting an ambulance service back to the valley, he said.
“We have these embers of a fire for first response, and we want to fan those flames,” Meagher said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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