Harlan County-Judge Executive Joe Grieshop confirmed Thursday that he sent a letter to the Tri-City Rescue Squad directing the organization to cease operations immediately due to non-compliance issues.
“The state notified me there were some serious non-compliance issues with respect to the Tri-City Rescue Squad,” said Grieshop. “The state said we, as county government, could be in serious trouble if they continue to serve the public without being in compliance. I did issue a letter to them stating they needed to stop serving the community as a rescue squad until all the issues are addressed. I offered assistance from David McGill, our emergency management director. I’m not so sure they are taking advantage of this offer and getting what needs to be done completed.”
Harlan County Emergency Management Director David McGill said “hopefully” this is a temporary closure.
“The closure is due to non-compliance with state and local emergency management,” said McGill. “Rescue squads have to send in various reports to my office, to be forwarded to the state, because the state gives them funding and also covers their workers’ compensation in the event someone is injured. They also provide training to keep them in state compliance.”
McGill said the rescue squad is emergency management’s “first line of defense” in the event of a disaster.
“Basically, there was some paperwork that needed to be filed that wasn’t,” said McGill. “To the best of my knowledge, they are working on that at this time. We have given them the necessary paperwork they need to work on to become compliant and we’re waiting on them to return that paperwork. We are working with them as much as possible to help them become compliant — if that is where they want to go.”
When contacted by a reporter, Tri-City Rescue Squad Captain Stephanie Vanover she said all paperwork has been submitted to the state and the squad is “waiting to be told when they can resume operations.”
“What happened was the laws have changed and no one told us they had and that there were new things we had to have,” said Vanover. “A lot of us have been in the rescue squad business for awhile. We have volunteers who are coal miners, teachers, dispatchers, firemen and most work for an ambulance service, so, it’s hard for all of us to come together because we work such different shifts. I don’t deny that we had some discrepancies in our paperwork. We have worked so hard on our rescue squad building. We’ve put vinyl siding on it, we have a new crash response vehicle, a boat, mountain rescue equipment, a meeting hall — God has richly blessed our rescue squad. We’ve had to sit down and get the training we needed done. We have busted our chops getting everything done to open back up. There is no way we would let all this go after all the work we have done to make this rescue squad a success.”
McGill said residents can be assured the Harlan County Rescue Squad is now covering the Tri-City area and have a truck stationed in the area.
“The Harlan County Rescue Squad will be there just until the situation is rectified, or it can be a permanent placement also,” said McGill.
Grieshop wanted to clarify the Tri-City Rescue Squad has nothing to do with Life Care Ambulance Service. He said a lot of the volunteers on the rescue squad are “Life Care employees.” He went on to say the Harlan County Rescue Squad and Tri-City Rescue Squad are not controlled by the county, but are accountable to the state as non-profit organizations.
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