County’s New Emergency Services Fly-Car Program Set To Hit Road Monday

Chautauqua County's fly-car system will be in service starting Monday at 6 a.m. Pictured is one of the fly-cars with equipment. 
P-J photo by Jimmy McCarthy

Chautauqua County's fly-car system will be in service starting Monday at 6 a.m. Pictured is one of the fly-cars with equipment. P-J photo by Jimmy McCarthy

MAYVILLE — A new unit will be in full service Monday and joining an emergency response community to provide care within minutes of dialing 911.

Paramedics making up Chautauqua County’s Emergency Medical Services Program, commonly known as the fly-car system, concluded orientation Friday at Emergency Services’ headquarters in Mayville.

Three full-time and six part-time paramedics have been hired to operate three advanced life support vehicles. They will be stationed in Ashville, Arkwright and Gerry.

Kevin Peebles, project coordinator, and Mike Volpe, county senior paramedic, will man a vehicle stationed in Mayville to bring the number of fly-cars in the county to four.

County Executive Vince Horrigan visited the paramedics to discuss how the program will impact Chautauqua County residents. Horrigan said the county has 42 “exceptional fire departments,” but noted the demand for EMTs and the need for fast, life-saving care is critical.

Mike Volpe, county senior paramedic, shows paramedics some of the equipment that will be contained within the fly-car. 
P-J photo by Jimmy McCarthy

Mike Volpe, county senior paramedic, shows paramedics some of the equipment that will be contained within the fly-car. P-J photo by Jimmy McCarthy

“I’m very excited about it and I’m very thankful to have this incredible team that will deliver this life-saving care,” Horrigan said.

“I can think of nothing more important for taxpayers than when they pick up the phone when they need help and dial 911 and know someone’s on the way,” he continued.

Emergency Services Director Julius Leone said implementation of the fly-car program looks to create a blended response system with the volunteer fire service and Alstar EMS.

The type of response to a call, whether it be a fly-car, a local fire department or Alstar EMS, will be determined by a dispatcher based on the care needed. Leone said two types of support — basic or advanced — can be offered based on the dispatcher’s conversation with a caller.

“Maybe we’ll be the first ones to back (a fire department) up,” Leone said. “Another department may choose Alstar if they’re closer to the city of Jamestown or Dunkirk to be their first responder. That’s all determined through the dispatch system.”

The fly-car system initiated on a small scale in the Mayville area with the hiring of Peebles and Volpe earlier in the year. Volpe said they’ve handled 33 incidents to date, and Peebles said the average response time to calls has been three to three-and-a-half minutes.

“This will do a lot of good in the county,” Peebles said. “It’s been a long time in the making.”

For many years, the fly-car concept was discussed as the number of volunteer EMTs decreased and the flow of emergency calls increased. A study conducted by a Massachusetts firm last year bore the issue out and recommended a county-sponsored emergency response program to assist volunteer responders and commercial response like Alstar EMS.

Dr. Brian Walters, medical director for the program, said each fly-car contains everything seen in an advanced life support paramedic ambulance. For instance, fly-cars will be equipped with a video laryngoscope. Walters said the tool makes it easier for a paramedic to place a breathing tube in a patient.

“It allows you to see around curves and it gives you a better chance of success to place the tube,” he said.

Fly-cars will also be equipped with cardiac monitoring equipment, pain medication and anticonvulsant medication, among other equipment.

County emergency vehicles will hit the road Monday beginning at 6 a.m. Fly-car paramedics will be in service Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Those are the times where we have the least manpower,” Leone said.

Medical response began to reach a crisis point five years ago, according to Steve Cobb, county emergency medical services coordinator. Since then, he said the issue came on faster than officials thought. Cobb commended the County Legislature for its fast work to place funding for the program, which he said could become a model across the state.

“Many are looking at this program,” he said. “What (the paramedics) do out there is going to be so important.”

Ed Mager, of the state Health Department, said the program indeed will become a model throughout the state.

“By this county stepping up and committing to care, it’s going to make a huge difference for citizens here,” he said.

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