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Emergency Services

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After seeking significant community input through two town hall style meetings, multiple Board of Fire Commissioner Meetings, and information learned at 16 strategic planning focus group sessions, the Orcas Island Fire and Rescue Board of Commissioners have elected not to be a financial partner in the Marine Operations User's Group (MOUG).

The MOUG was formed by the San Juan County Sheriff to administer a grant for a new public safety vessel issued through the Department of Homeland Security. The MOUG includes all the public safety organizations in San Juan County and will also be tasked to oversee the marine operations program. As a financial participant, OIFR would be responsible for approximately $25,000 per year in maintenance and operational costs for the program.

Fiscal accountability was pivotal in the decision that was made on April 9, 2013 at the Regular Board Meeting. Working with Chief Kevin O'Brien, the commissioners diligently compared the potential financial impacts to our taxpayers with the prospective benefits of the new program. Community input was also a significant driver, as well as the recent improved availability of federal marine resources.

Currently, the Sheriff's Department operates three vessels and charges local emergency providers $1,000 per marine EMS transport to the mainland. With the purchase of a new vessel, the bill for transport is planned to be $6,500 per transport for agencies who are not financial partners in the MOUG. Since 2007, OIFR has used the Sheriff's vessel Guardian an average of seven times per year for EMS transports with four transports in 2012 and three in 2011.

This year, OIFR has made two marine EMS transports, one by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the other by the U.S. Coast Guard. There is currently no fee for marine transport with these federal organizations.

OIFR will always assure that our EMS patients receive the highest level of care possible through the following means:

A paramedic is on duty 24/7-365 with EMT responders.

A back-up supervisor paramedic/Assistant Chief living on the island Medical Control with Dr. Michael Sullivan

Partnerships with Orcas Island medical professionals to avoid off-island transport if appropriate

Partnerships with our neighboring emergency service providers

Off-island transport to hospitals through these modes:

Airlift Northwest

Island Air Ambulance

SJC Sheriff's Vessel

Washington State Ferries

U.S. Navy Rescue Helicopter

U.S. Coast Guard safe boats and helicopter

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol safe boats and helicopter

Private vessels

Orcas Island Fire and Rescue will continue to foster collaboration with the Sheriff's Department and our neighboring emergency providers. In the remote island setting we live, we can't operate alone. We will endeavor to seek partnerships and offer assistance to our surrounding neighbors.

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