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S.C. county’s new ambulance service tackles communications challenges

Thorne Ambulance Service is working on improving interoperability with other first responders in Bamberg County

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By Dionne Gleaton
The Times and Democrat

BAMBERG COUNTY, S.C. — The CEO of Bamberg County’s new ambulance service says he’s working to overcome challenges with communications and address other issues.

Greenville-based Thorne Ambulance Service began providing Bamberg County’s EMS services on Aug. 9.

“One of the big challenges has been regarding radio communications,” founder and CEO Ryan D. Thorne told Bamberg County Council last week.

“We do our have our radio communications vendor coming to the county ... and they’ve assured us that they will remain onsite until communications equipment is functioning at 100 percent the way that it needs to be,” Thorne said.

“We’re really focused on interoperability, the ability to speak directly with other public safety departments, whether that be fire or law enforcement, and also across county lines, making sure we have those good communication channels open for mutual aid as those opportunities become available and necessary to meet the needs of the citizens in the community,” he said.

The county selected TAS to replace its former ambulance service provider, Anderson-based Medshore Ambulance.

County Administrator Joey Preston has said that two advanced life support ambulances will be provided with an average response time of 14 minutes.

One ambulance each will be stationed in Bamberg and Denmark. Automatic vehicle locating systems will be used to ensure the closest unit responds to an emergency.

Thorne said, “In terms of the ambulances that we’ve brought to the community, I hope that everybody’s seen a nice, positive shift regarding the quality of the equipment and the ambulances.

“In terms of staffing, we’re still onboarding staff at this time, but I am pleased to report from the Bamberg standpoint, we have a very good number of full-time paramedics and EMTs. So those ambulances are running at 100 percent, and they have been since day one.”

He continued, “There are other personnel that will be coming on, joining our team in the coming weeks. We have additional applications that we’ve received as early as (Aug. 14). So I think word is getting out that we are here in the community and that we’re obviously looking for high-caliber individuals to join our team, whether it be in a full- or part-time capacity.”

“We’re also looking at different opportunities to work with fire service and incorporate some of their medical providers into our response plans when they available to be on scene,” he said.

Councilwoman Sharon Hammond asked, “How do you communicate with other agencies across county lines?”

Thorne Ambulance Service also serves Barnwell County.

Thorne said, “Right now, the communication is really with our internal organization, with any resources that we may have in the Barnwell County area. That’s primarily where Bamberg County is receiving their mutual aid from an outside EMS service. It stays within Thorne Ambulance Service.

“So right now we’re trying to make sure the communication across county lines works in that direction, and then the next phase of that is to start reaching out to our other neighboring partners and seeing if there’s an opportunity for us to incorporate their radio frequencies or vice versa on our channels.”

He continued, “So that way, whether it be Orangeburg, Allendale or anybody else coming into the county, or us going to them, we have some way to communicate with them whether it’s through the fire channel or through their direct EMS channels.”

Hammond also asked how the ambulance service plans to communicate during a statewide emergency event.

Thorne said, “We have the ability to add the 800-megahertz channels from the statewide communication network on there. Again, that’s something that we hope to accomplish. ... Obviously, the first and foremost priority is ensuring that we have direct communication with county communications.

“Then, beyond that, we’re looking to expand out the number of channels available to our staff, if nothing more than at least having our operations managers and local supervisors having access to those statewide channels.”

In the meantime, Thorne said he is pleased with the response the service has received within the community.

“Thank you again for the opportunity to serve Bamberg County. It has definitely come with its challenges, us coming in a little bit early, but I will say the community here, whether fire department, law enforcement, or just members of the community, have been incredibly welcoming to us. ...

“We understand that there are a lot of feelings oftentimes associated with changes of EMS providers. So the fact that we’ve received such a warm welcome from everybody in the community has been a tremendous help to us and our team ... as we continue to move forward with our implementation,” he said.

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