The Coastal Star

County Pocket: New rules aim to cut emergency response times

By Jane Smith

A July medical emergency in the County Pocket has led to an updated mutual aid agreement and could lead to faster response times for life-threatening emergencies in that 16.5-acre enclave just south of Briny Breezes.

Boynton Beach and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue chiefs updated their mutual aid agreements, according to a letter signed Aug. 10. The agreements say Boynton Beach Fire Rescue — because of its proximity — should be the first responder in life-threatening situations.

The County Pocket sits in an unincorporated section and receives county fire and police services. Emergency service is provided through mutual aid agreements with both Delray Beach and Boynton Beach.

The new agreements list 15 types of emergencies when Boynton Beach Fire Rescue should be the first to respond, including cardiac arrest, choking and when a person is unresponsive. The list also has a general life-threatening category.

It is similar to the agreement put in place after County Pocket resident Bill Dunn choked to death in 2009 while eating. It took county fire rescue paramedics more than 12 minutes to respond from their station at Woolbright Road and Military Trail.

This time, the chiefs agreed to meet with dispatch center staffs to make sure they follow the protocols of when Boynton Beach Fire Rescue would be called.

“We did meet with dispatch center staff to review the protocols for emergency calls that we will respond to in the County Pocket,” said Glenn Joseph, Boynton Beach fire chief.

County fire rescue administration staffers met with their alarm office staff on Aug. 23 to discuss the latest mutual aid agreements, according to Derek Wiley, captain with county fire rescue.

On July 4, a 48-year-old man fell off the back of a golf cart and hit his head near Mike Smollon’s house in the County Pocket.
A retired Boynton Beach fire battalion chief, Smollon held the unconscious man’s head until Delray Beach Fire-Rescue paramedics arrived about 10 minutes after the incident, which one of the man’s friends called in.

Delray Beach paramedics transported the man to Delray Medical Center, a trauma center in the western part of the city. The man recovered and was able to leave the next day, Smollon said.

Delray Beach Fire-Rescue usually responds to emergencies in the County Pocket that are not life-threatening, such as a fall.

The city has an automatic aid agreement to provide services to county pockets, either in the city or outside, said Kevin Saxton, Delray Beach Fire-Rescue spokesman. “The county reciprocates when our services are depleted,” Saxton said.

After Smollen questioned the response time and agency responding, the chiefs eventually agreed to re-examine the mutual aid agreements and how first responders are dispatched.

“The problem is how the caller describes the emergency,” said Joseph. “In the July 4 incident, the initial call was described as a fall with injury.”

Joseph said his paramedics can’t run on every call for a fall outside their service area. “That would result in a lot of calls that the county would not reimburse us for handling,” he said.

Smollon agreed that how the caller describes the emergency is important. At a Nov. 13 meeting with Briny Breezes and County Pocket residents, he reminded listeners to “make sure you describe the nature of the emergency accurately when you call 911.”

Mutual aid emergency types
Cardiac arrest
Trouble breathing
Allergic reaction
Vehicle accident: rollover/extrication
Open water incident
Structure fire
Aircraft incident
And any other type that seems to be life-threatening

SOURCE: Palm Beach County and Boynton Beach Fire Rescue

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