Life support

Greene County Sheriff’s Department Adds Advanced Life Support Team | Local News

The Greene County Sheriff’s Department recently launched an Advanced Life Support (ALS) Rapid Response Team, the first of its kind for law enforcement in Pennsylvania.

Chief Deputy Zackery Howard led the effort. Howard, who has been a paramedic since 2009 and works part-time with EMS Southwest, saw the need to fill the gaps in Greene’s emergency response services.

“Last year, I realized the need. EMS was just overloaded. There’s really high call volume in our area,” Howard said.

The rural nature of Greene County also means long response times, a concern Sheriff Marcus Simms said he heard from residents.

“It kind of started with the commissioners’ town halls and the comments on EMS,” Simms said.

Simms supported Howard’s idea, but worried about the cost.

“I contacted various local businesses. Without their support, we could never have made this happen,” Simms said.

The CNX Foundation and EQT donated a combined $46,000 for the necessary equipment, such as a machine that administers CPR for longer than a human and a heart monitor. EMS Southwest and Washington Health System Greene provided medical supplies.

With the tools in place, Howard said he was able to provide potentially life-saving care while an ambulance is on the way.

“If it’s on the west end of our county, I’m able to respond and provide care 15-20 minutes before EMS care arrives. Just a few minutes is a big deal,” Howard said.

The sheriff’s department does not have the capacity to transport patients.

Even in situations where Howard can’t go faster than an ambulance, the Sheriff’s Department’s new capabilities still free up resources for EMS.

“There were a few calls where EMS was closer than me, and I was called in more of a support role, so they didn’t have to use two ambulances. They were able to use one and me- same,” Howard said.

One such case included the March 3 shooting at Circle K in Carmichaels, in which three people were hospitalized. Five people, including three minors, have been charged with attempted murder.

“As law enforcement, I’m able to help secure the scene and also help with initial patient care,” Howard said.

According to Howard, many police departments provide basic life-saving assistance, but ALS is new to law enforcement in Pennsylvania.

“There are not many paramedics who are also certified as law enforcement officers. We hope that once we bring attention to this service, other departments will follow,” Howard said.

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