‘It’ll definitely help save lives’: Horry County Fire Rescue creates new EMT position

Grand Strand

Horry County Fire Rescue does much more than fight fires.

In fact, emergency medical calls are a majority of the calls the department receives and responds to. 

Between July 1 and December 31 of 2018, HCFR responded to 26,000 EMS calls compared to 4,000 fire calls. 

To keep up with the growing demand of medical services, the department created a new position. 

Previously, HCFR had two main positions: firefighter/EMT and paramedic. 

The new position just created is an intermediate level between those two called advanced EMT. 

An advanced EMT can provide medical services that the basic EMT can’t on calls that paramedics may be overqualified to respond to. 

“A basic EMT can do any kind of basic life support, but they can’t administer certain drugs, they can’t insert IVs as needed,” Tony Casey, spokesperson for Horry County Fire Rescue, said. “So this advanced EMT person can give someone fluids, they can put in IVs, and they can administer some drugs.” 

It’s a move the department says will help with staffing and deployment. 

“We are dealing with a paramedic shortage across the nation,” Casey said. “And having this intermediate between a basic EMT and a paramedic allows us to provide more service, more life-saving support without having them go through that process of training to be a full-time paramedic.”

According to HCFR, the new position doesn’t just benefit the department, but you at home.

“It’ll definitely help save lives in that we have a lot of calls in-between the paramedic level and the basic EMT level,” Casey said. “So having this option, offering these classes, is really going to benefit Horry County.”

After a year of service, any Horry County basic EMT can choose to take the class to become an advanced EMT, which is about 288 hours of training.

News13 asked if the advanced EMTs would get a salary increase. 

“Not yet, but that’s something we’ve been looking into,” Casey replied. 

The first class of 13 advanced EMTs graduated in November. The second class of about 18-24 is set to graduate next month.

Last summer, in a big overhaul, Horry County Fire Rescue changed its deployment model to free up paramedics who were being tied down with minor injury calls. 

The department said this helped cut down on mandatory overtime problems and led to about an 80% increase in advanced life support availability at some of the busier fire stations. 

At last night’s county council meeting, Chief Joseph Tanner announced there were five vacancies overall.

At this time last year, there were 24.

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