I would like to comment on some issues discussed in a letter written by Gene Cobb of Gainesville in Saturday’s Times: Communities that have tried using “dual use” firefighters and police officers usually return to the traditional model of delivering emergency services after a short period of time. It just doesn’t work.
When an emergency occurs (such as an automobile accident), you need at least a minimum number of personnel to do specific tasks. Police officers are needed to direct traffic and investigate the accident; firefighters are needed to mitigate hazards such as spilled fuel and to extricate trapped patients; and EMTs and paramedics are needed to treat and transport injured patients to the hospital.
A community that puts its “eggs all in one basket” by using “dual use” firefighters and police officers find out quickly that it just doesn’t have enough personnel at the emergency scene to do all these tasks appropriately.
Today’s emergency first responders face tremendous challenges with the advent of “hybrid” vehicles, alternative fuels and hazardous materials being transported by highway and rail through our community. It is important to respond aggressively and get control of all emergencies, especially motor vehicle accidents, even the “minor” ones.
Also, using a police car to “push” disabled vehicles is a bad idea. The legal liability involved is horrendous, and police cars are expensive and sophisticated vehicles.
In 50 years as an emergency firefighter/EMT/paramedic in four states (New York, South Carolina, Florida and now Georgia), I am happy to say that Hall County and its municipalities provide an excellent level of emergency services.