The Marion Fire-EMS Department is answering more calls than ever.
While no one can point to a specific cause, officials acknowledge that the call volume is taxing the first-responders’ resources.
In his summary of the department’s July activity, Chief Billy Hamm noted, “Our call volume exploded….”
The department answered 234 calls in the month, averaging 7.55 calls per day. It was the agency’s highest volume since the town’s fire department and rescue squad merged in July 2015.
The department’s previous record for busiest month came in May when it reached 207 calls for a daily average of 6.68 calls per day.
Marion’s Fire-EMS is on track to set a new yearly record.
In 2016, the first responders answered 1,632 calls. The next year, the number exceeded 2,000, coming in at 2,081, and, last year, the call total was 2,180.
Through July of this year, the department is already at 1,374 calls.
At this pace, Town Manager Bill Rush said, the department could respond to more than 2,800 calls by year end.
Rush nor other officials can point to a single reason for the skyrocketing emergency call volume. “It’s not quantifiable,” the town manager said. However, he did note that it is taxing resources. While some of its staff is paid, the department also relies on volunteers and, Rush noted, volunteerism is down.
Hamm noted in his report that 130 of July’s 234 calls were transported to the hospital, which “means only about 56 percent of our call volume was billable for the month.”
As the county grappled with the fate of the Saltville Rescue Squad earlier this year as that entity struggled with finances, Charlie Harrington, the county’s emergency management coordinator, cautioned leaders that volunteerism continues to drop. He urged strategic planning.
In May, the board of supervisors followed Harrington’s advice and appointed an ad hoc committee with representatives of every county EMS agency to develop and prepare proposals for the short- and long-term.