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Volunteers Send Out EMS 9-1-1 to Legislature in Niagara County

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September 21, 2023 | NEW YORK Stephen M Wallace, Correspondent
This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

Niagara County Volunteers answered their own 9-1-1 call as they filled the Niagara County Court House parking lot on Tuesday night, September 19th. For over 16 months, the volunteers have been advised that funding was approved for the much-needed county run EMS system. To this date, nothing has been done; the reason being "political games”, one high-ranking volunteer fire official stated. Another high-ranking volunteer made it clear by saying, “You’re willing to put the residents of this county at risk of their lives for politics."

The parking lot was filled with hundreds of volunteers from all over the county, and the roads and parking lots were jammed with millions of dollars-worth of firefighting and EMS rescue equipment. These volunteers were beyond professional. They didn’t need to blast sirens or be disruptive, because they had the brother and sisterhood of pure numbers on their side.

It was last year in April when, with the assistance of the County Emergency manager, they compiled the data needed to show what exactly was required to run a County EMS system. It would start with two units working 12-hour shifts and possibly grow from there. It also showed the potential for reimbursement for this program. The program would be funded with county casino money. What a perfect use for this money, a system to help save people's lives!  

The county, according to a fire official, after receiving the needed information, wasted over $100,000 to hire a firm to compile the same data that was already gathered for them for free. Now, 16 months later, after the volunteers were told that it was budgeted, there is still nothing! The county allocated over $5000,000 in emergency revenue to use a private firm, and come this October, if they don’t get this program up and running, they will spend hundreds of thousands of more tax payer's money.

One interesting thing that was pointed out by the volunteer’s representative, is that since the information was collected and provided to Niagara County, four other counties have instituted this type of service. It also was pointed out that this isn’t an isolated problem. This isn’t something that could become an issue, this is already life-threatening! In the past week, one call took 49 minutes to get EMS, another 29 minutes, and then three companies got called into the City of Lockport to cover, and endless companies are playing hop along, going from one company to another to try and provide coverage.

One informative political person tried handing out a statement of “questionable” relativity. The Chief of a volunteer agency and a multi-decade-long Paramedic and Sheriff Dispatcher shut him down like a light switch with a short! She has been doing this way too long, she has seen what goes on in the streets, and has to work with the stress of trying to tell people that she is trying to get medical help to them and she is fed up.  

Niagara County Chairman Rebecca Wydysh came outside in the middle of hundreds of volunteers, surrounded by massive fire and rescue equipment, and personally told them all that she hears them. She realizes that there is a critical problem in the county. She also explained that there are some other issues that she has to try to deal with to get this type of plan up and running. The Chair spoke from her heart. She answered questions, she explained that she wants to provide the needed care for the public. Even when another political person tried to get her to end her talk and go inside to start the meeting, Rebecca stayed longer, showing she truly wants to help and wants to hear what the volunteers have to say. She listened to a civilian who lost one child, but had others saved by volunteers at a tragic accident.

Paul Gurnett, President of the Niagara County Fire Advisory Board, wants answers. He wants the volunteers to be able to provide the best care and that most realize, that their companies EMS system is failing. Paul wants to know why the paid private units are getting hundreds of thousands of dollars and are not available many of times to assist. If the program was approved 16 months ago, and they have the casino money available to them, why is it not up and running? This is the volunteers 9-1-1 call to the Niagara County Legislature, putting them on notice that the lives of the public are at stake over their delay to act appropriately.

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Stephen M WallaceCorrespondent

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