Creation of a special committee to try to do something about a shortage of emergency medical technicians at volunteer fire companies will be featured on Tuesday's County Legislature agenda.
Emergency Services Director James C. Volkosh said more than three-quarters of the calls received by volunteer firefighters are for medical aid rather than fires.
The problem of ever-decreasing numbers of volunteer firefighters was exacerbated when a state law took effect Jan. 1 requiring that an emergency medical technician be in the back of an ambulance with a patient at all times. This makes it tough on fire companies, many of which don't have a large supply of EMTs.
"Not all people need EMTs. Not all people need paramedics," Volkosh said.
But all fire companies need EMTs. Volkosh said that most fire companies in the county are shorthanded and that all could use more members, especially those willing to go through EMT training.
"It's a demographic thing," said Volkosh. "Society now would rather give the fire company a $100 donation a year and call 911 because someone's got shampoo in their eyes than volunteer their time."
The result is slower response times, delays in taking patients to hospitals and increasing demands on those who do volunteer.
Also Tuesday, the Legislature is to vote on a resolution to give the Traffic Safety Office a roving educator. The post has been vacant for about two years, said Traffic Safety Coordinator Mary Boron.
The post is to be funded by a state grant that lasts until Sept. 30, Boron said. The educator is to start work March 5 and be paid at the annual rate of $36,007, though the job expires when the funding does.
"He's going to go out into the community," Boron said, visiting schools and other groups that need to hear about the importance of seat belts, bicycle helmets, pedestrian safety and child car seats. The latter are especially important, Boron said.
Last year, the Traffic Safety Office set up shop at 11 major events in the county to check whether safety seats were installed correctly in vehicles. Of the roughly 150 people who took advantage of the inspections, Boron said only two had their child safety seats installed properly.
"There are 10,000 combinations between (brands of) car seats and (brands of) vehicles," Boron said, adding the restoration of the educator's position will allow more opportunities for checking car seat installation.
On another topic, the Legislature is to consider appropriating $25,000 in additional overtime expenses for the county treasurer's office because of the battle to implement the county's expensive new financial computer software system, PeopleSoft.
PeopleSoft has cost the county more than $1.5 million to buy and implement, but some departments complain that it delays their work instead of assisting it. The system's supporters say the problem will care of itself once training is completed.