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Monday, May 2, 2016

Agencies stepping up response assistance

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dave Watson
As the doors of a local emergency unit temporarily shut down other agencies are pulling together to make sure local residents have adequate emergency services available.

As of 8:30 p.m., Thursday, the Clay County Search and Rescue (CCSR) board of directors announced it would close its doors and remain out of service until further notice due to a lock of funds to pay for health/medical/life insurance and workman's comp along with vehicle liability insurance.

The organization also owes approximately $500 in outstanding basic utilities and other miscellaneous bills, with monthly expenditures being approximately $700-750.

According to Indiana statute, CCSR is required to cover the 15 active volunteers with insurance, of which more than $2,500 in premiums were due Wednesday.

"We made arrangements to pay half of the premiums, and we did, thinking we would be OK financially. Then we were notified we would have to pay the entire premium amount, making us short," CCSR Board Member Dave Watson told The Brazil Times Friday afternoon.

Although the county provides some financial support to the CCSR, most of the funds necessary to cover the daily operating costs come from donations.

Clay County Auditor Mary Jo Alumbaugh told The Brazil Times the vehicle used by Search and Rescue is owned and insured by the county.

"The county also has funds appropriated in the Emergency Management Fund for an Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which is for annual housing of the vehicle," Alumbaugh said. "In 2010, the amount was $6,000, and it is $7,000 for 2011, which will not be paid out until a claim is made for it."

Watson said the department was grateful the county covers the mortgage payment and members were working hard coming up with idea on how to raise the necessary funds to get the doors open and CCSR back into service.

TJ Modesitt
"We hate this," CCSR Board Member TJ Modesitt said. "This isn't easy, but we are dedicated to this community."

CCSR has responded to approximately 400-450 requests for assistance so far this year, including help with medical runs, accidents and extrication assistance, mutual aid for other local emergency and law enforcement departments, traffic control at community events, storm clean up and various other calls.

"If we were toned out, we responded," Watson said.

CCSR closing has caused a few adjustments in how emergency service departments will be dispatched to ensure adequate mutual aid among departments in Clay County.

"(Clay County E911 Dispatch) has taken steps to organize departments for adequate coverage for safety reasons and for the public," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton said. "There might be a slight delay because a few of the departments will have to go out of their townships to help other agencies, but its not going to be serious."

Despite not having certification for medical situations, the Brazil City Fire Department has notified the county they are willing to extend its coverage area to assist on additional runs.

"The county, as well as other volunteer fire departments, have been made aware that we are more than willing to assist on calls outside of the city if it is requested," BCFD Chief Jim Smith said.

Smith added there are added liability risks in his department expanding its coverage area, but with the Clay County Mutual Aid Agreement in place, it is something that all departments are prepared for.

"There isn't a huge difference between this and situations where departments are on standby because a department has equipment being down for maintenance or other reasons, but there is a higher state of awareness," he told The Brazil Times. "However, at the same time, if we are outside the city assisting on a run and a fire or emergency situation occurs within the corporate limits, we would be in a situation of having to call in additional personnel to make sure the city is protected because that is our main jurisdiction."

Joe Bennett
BCFD Captain Joe Bennett said the department would also take on additional responsibility because of some of its specialized training.

"If there is an accident in Dick Johnson Township, for example, we will have to head that direction because of our training in extrication, which is something Search and Rescue also has," Bennett said. "We are more than willing to assist, but the added costs of fuel and wear and tear on the vehicles and firefighters increase liability concerns."

CCSR board members hope the community will realize it's a small price to pay for the services provided by the volunteer organization.

Tough economic times and ever-increasing expenditures have hit the organization hard.

"A large portion of our donations used to come during the Covered Bridge Festival when we did collections at the intersections," Watson said. "The ordinance that stopped that hit our department pretty hard, but we can overcome."

Watson said members are placing collection jars at local businesses in the community to raise donations.

"The jars have our logos on them, so people will know their donations will go for CCSR," Watson said. "We are also working on other ideas too."

Two local banks are accepting donations on the organizations behalf.

People can stop by both branches of Riddell National Bank and the local Harris Bank branch and request to make a donation to the CCSR accounts at the respective banks.

"If people want to send a check to CCSR directly, they can send it in care of the department at 525 East National Ave., Brazil," Watson said. "We are also going to update people about our fundraising efforts on our Facebook page."

Without the necessary insurance, Watson said the decision to close was hard, but the volunteer organization could not continue to operate in good conscious.

"We're down right now, but we're not out," Watson said. "A lot of people are talking right now and hopefully, with the community's help, we can raise enough money so we can get the doors opened again."

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What about grants?

-- Posted by appaloosa queen on Sat, Dec 4, 2010, at 9:29 AM

Our lovely Governer of Indiana wants to stop all goverment funding to volenteer departments. Which would put rural areas out of fire protection and all the other things those departments do!

-- Posted by lillyblossom on Sat, Dec 4, 2010, at 12:17 PM

what needs to happen is Brazil City and Clay County need to give more funding to S&R! If they want their services why cant they pay for them just like thay do with the fire department!!! The men on Brazil City fire department dont even do a fraction of the runs and services that S&R do. But they get funded???? Doesnt seem quite fair to me!!!

-- Posted by lillyblossom on Sat, Dec 4, 2010, at 12:19 PM

How did the Governor stop funding to volunteer departments??

County Government has contracted with a private company to handle the needs, county wide, for emergency medical ambulance care. They have even stipulated paramedic services in their contract. Search and Rescue has morphed into an accessory to this private company. Search and Rescue was once the only emergency organization in the county with extrication equipment. That is not the case any longer. Many volunteer fire departments, and the City Fire Department now have extrication equipment and have provided those services to their areas of protection for several years. The need for search and rescue began to fade. The main service they provide now is dependent on the training level of first responders, many of their members have this level of training. That service is of great use to the private ambulance service. They can use them, abuse their volunteerism, and keep sort of a ruse going. You see, many times because Transcare is "out of position" on other calls, or showing the duplicity between their contract to clay and vigo counties by staging at the county line, they can request that Search and Rescue be dispatched to respond, to not just some of their calls, but nearly every single one of the calls they receive for an ambulance. Improving the response time. There is a workload that is performed at these scenes, and most of that is going to occur in the initial response and packaging of the patient. Search and Rescue handles this portion of Transcare's obligation the majority of the time. They do provide a service, but who are they really working for? The County? The City? or a private ambulance service? The funding that comes to the City for Fire Protection and Police Protection, comes from tax dollars. They are government entities. Search and Rescue is not. It is a volunteer agency that has no governing body, it is outside the mix. The City should develop and manage a City owned ambulance service. The Fire Department could handle extrication as they do now, and couple that with a City Ambulance and it would be more efficient, staffed with people who know the area, quicker response times. The workload would be large. Search and Rescue does make the bulk of their calls in assisting Transcare within the city limits. The city would make the profit from the medical calls. It is a logical idea.....but wouldn't that make the need for Search and Rescue even less? Transcare needs to take up the slack or cut a check to this organization.

-- Posted by spiritof56 on Sat, Dec 4, 2010, at 2:08 PM


YES! That is what I want (city EMS). If I fall ill or a family member falls ill I want a LOCAL, VESTED, CARING responder. Makes too much sense. Makes a few jobs open up too. S&R is a great entity but they should be a "break glass in an emergency" type thing, not a crutch for some private company. If they assist transcorpse they should get at least $50 per run to make it right. Put that in the contract.

-- Posted by wtfizdat on Sat, Dec 4, 2010, at 5:13 PM

here is one problem with a city ambulance. everyone they picked up would go to clay county hosp. no more going to terre haute!

-- Posted by FIREMEDIC on Sat, Dec 4, 2010, at 5:34 PM

There is absolutely NO WAY the city of Brazil can afford to start up and run their own ambulance service. Anyone who thinks otherwise has obviously no idea of the upfront cost to get it started, let alone the massive cost of trying to operate it. Ambulance service (especially with paramedic service) is something that needs to be run by professionals in that field, not by government officials at any level.

-- Posted by open minded on Sat, Dec 4, 2010, at 7:11 PM

I'm a little stymied by some of the comments that have been made previously on this article.

First of all, I have sat and listened to emergency calls on my scanner for years. To my thinking, Search and Rescue filled a niche that now will draw resources from other agencies. True, I've heard a lot of dispatches of S & R to assist Transcare with "lifting assistance". No doubt, S & R was making up a shortfall in the Transcare service of their contract or a shortfall in the wording of that contract. It does little good to bring the ambulance to the patient if you cannot put the patient into the ambulance.

Can the government provide these services? They already do! On every military base, there is a Fire Department and Ambulance service that has no connection to the surrounding area, period. Can Clay County or the City of Brazil fund such a service? No, it is going to take a coalition of at least Clay and Vigo Counties, but it would be better to have an even larger region participate. But EMS can, and should, be a government service. After all, we could privatize the Police Department and the Fire Department, too.

Then, there was a comment that, if there were a city EMS, all patients would go to Clay -- St. Vincent Hospital. In an emergency, life-threatening situation, what, pray tell, is wrong with going by ambulance to the nearest medical facility? I've had my ride in an ambulance, from Clay -- St. Vincent to Regional for a higher level of care. I walked into the ER and left it on a gurney. If there is a preference, then call Transcare or another private ambulance company, but if what you want is medical attention as fast as possible, dial 911 for a quick ride to the nearest hospital. That is, if changes are made. The last time the ambulance was called to my residence, the response time was over thirty minutes. I live ten minutes from Clay -- St. Vincent if it is after 11 PM, the traffic signals in Brazil are blinking, and a red light at the corner of IN59 and US40 does not stop me. That's driving the speed limit and without lights and sirens!

-- Posted by Leo L. Southworth on Sat, Dec 4, 2010, at 8:57 PM

Go get em Leo!! But of course if it is logical then it won't work being run by city government.

-- Posted by (B_b) is an idiot !! on Sun, Dec 5, 2010, at 8:50 AM

"No doubt, S & R was making up a shortfall in the Transcare service of their contract or a shortfall in the wording of that contract"

When any fd or s&r are called on a med run it is not to make up for anyones shortfall but to give that person some medical attention a few min. sooner. And if it is a "REAL" life or death situation than that could make the difference between life or death!! I'm not defending Transcare by ANY means but I am trying to bring light to the situation that most people don't understand. FYI all the counties around Clay call for the FD to help on ems calls even the counties that dont have private EMS service.

Any way no matter how you look at it S&R was doing noyhing but good for our county and I haop they can get back in service asap.

-- Posted by FIREMEDIC on Sun, Dec 5, 2010, at 6:39 PM

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