Fly Car System Deemed A Success By County, EMS Officials

In just a few months, Chautauqua County’s emergency services vehicles have responded to 365 calls for assistance. The vehicles, which provide advances emergency care and personnel, assist local fire departments in the county. Submitted photo

Fly cars do not have wings, but some might consider them guardian angels.

The rapid-response emergency service vehicle system has been effective in the first few months of operation that it has been in existence, according to various emergency services officials. In the emergency services field, that means preserving life.

“The fly car system is saving lives,” said John Griffith, Chautauqua County Office of Emergency Services director.

The fly-car system was established to provide swift response to 911 calls while supporting volunteer fire service and ALSTAR EMS. He said vehicles are equipped with medications and equipment that could be found in a typical emergency room.

The service allows for a blended response system between the fire department and Alstar EMS, Griffith said. The system consists of three cars staged in strategic spots throughout the county, and another vehicle that is the senior paramedics vehicle that can also respond.

Mike Volpe, Chautauqua County Emergency Medical Services senior paramedic, said when a 911 call is initiated, questions are asked to help classify a call as either standard, priority or advanced. The fly car system can respond to both basic and advanced calls.

Griffith said the system has had a large impact on the area and is providing needed services in the county. The system is only four months old, but has responded to 365 calls so far. He said the system has responded to every fire department in the county more than once, including the city of Dunkirk and the city of Jamestown.

“The responses from the fire departments has been fantastic,” Griffith said. “We appreciate what they do, and they appreciate what we do.”

Kevin Peebles, emergency medical services project coordinator, said the program has been successful across the county in a variety of scenarios. He said Chautauqua County is one of a small group of counties in the state to have such a system.

“We were kind of one of the front runners on this,” he said. “There’s a lot of smaller counties that are kind of watching us and gathering ideas from us.”

Griffith said the fly car system is the “forefront of what is going to happen in the state.” He said the system makes a difference in the lives of Chautauqua County residents and visitors every day.

“In fact, this morning, three of the cars were out in three different areas of the county at the same time,” he said Friday. “We want people to realize this is a big success and it is effecting people’s lives every day.”

Griffith said he could see the program expanding in the future. The first step would be to expand the hours of coverage to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Currently, Griffith said the program runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

However, the growth of the program depends on funding to make it possible.

“Everything in government is depending on funding,” Griffith said. “We’re prepared to move forward if that’s where the county executive and the legislature would like us to go.”

Legislator PJ Wendel, Public Safety Committee chairman, said he has heard nothing but good things about the program.

“I think it’s working great,” Wendel said. “It’s a needed system that’s working the way it is supposed to.”

He said the program had a late start, but has overcome the hurdles in the past few months to become a success. Wendel said the program is well-organized and maintained.

“If it saves one life, it was well worth it and we’ve already done that,” he said.

Kurt Hallberg, Lakewood Fire chief, said in his opinion, the system has worked well. Hallberg said Lakewood has its own advanced life support service within the department, followed by ALSTAR, but the fly car system is third in line to respond for their department.

“We have used them,” he said. “They’ve equipped (the cars) with everything paramedics need.”

Hallberg said he believes there will be a time when the system is expanded.

“I think it’s working well enough that they’d consider that,” he said. “I do think it’s a good use of the tax dollar. The county has supplied something that has been needed for a long time.”