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Published: Wednesday, 5/2/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Staffing boost cuts response times

Northwood's ambulance manned 24 hours a day

BY GABRIELLE RUSSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Lt. Brian Dempsey stocks the ambulance at Northwood Fire Station No. 2. The increase in the fire department's budget has helped the department's operations, Chief Joel Whitmore said. Lt. Brian Dempsey stocks the ambulance at Northwood Fire Station No. 2. The increase in the fire department's budget has helped the department's operations, Chief Joel Whitmore said.
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A seasoned paramedic, Lt. John Romstadt still gets a jolt of excitement when the call for help comes over his pager.

"Everybody gets an initial adrenaline rush," he says.

But he also has a sense of calmness too that most rookie first-responders don't have.

Maybe it's because he's been on the Northwood Fire Department since 1994. Or maybe it's because firefighting is in the 38-year-old's blood as he follows his father's footsteps.

The city's response times have been under scrutiny and the city council heavily debated -- and eventually approved -- a $139,222 increase on its fire-department budget to improve them. The extra fire coverage increased the department's $584,000 budget by 24 percent.

So far, it's paying off, Chief Joel Whitmore said.

"It's definitely improved our operations, definitely enhanced our ability to provide care," the chief said. "Getting there quicker is definitely a good thing."

From 6000 Wales Rd., the station is averaging a 5.07-minute response time from Jan. 1 to April 25, compared to a 13-minute average response time last year.

Since January, the two paid volunteers at a time staff the city ambulance 24 hours a day.

Before, those two positions only worked from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, so the staff of 39 paid volunteers responded to fires and emergencies from home during off-duty hours.

The station on Wales Road is averaging a 5.07-minute response time from Jan. 1 to April 25, compared to a 13-minute average response time from last year. The station on Wales Road is averaging a 5.07-minute response time from Jan. 1 to April 25, compared to a 13-minute average response time from last year.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The change in staffing was pushed largely as a result of 67-year-old Timothy Mix's death on March 5, 2011.

In about 22 minutes, Ellen Jean Mix called 911 three times and waited for help, according to a pending lawsuit filed in Wood County Common Pleas Court. Mrs. Mix is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.

Northwood emergency responders did not arrive until more than 25 minutes later, and by then, her husband had stopped breathing, she said in the lawsuit, which was filed against the city of Northwood and several city employees, including Chief Whitmore.

Chief Whitmore declined to comment about the March 5 incident because of the ongoing litigation. Mrs. Mix's attorney, Paul Belazis, could not be reached for comment.

But with the 24/7 coverage, the fire department now has the manpower to deal with emergencies, he said.

From Jan. 1 to April 25, the fire station on Wales Road responded to 27 calls between the hours of midnight to 6 a.m.

Mr. Mix's death was a tragedy, but at least positive change has resulted from it, Lieutenant Romstadt said. "Sometimes, it takes something unfortunate to happen."



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