published Friday, January 20th, 2012

EMS switch going smoothly in Dade County

Puckett EMS, contracted by Dade County for ambulance services in October, rolls out on Wednesday to a call of a possible stroke.  Paramedic Joe Storm and Mandy Allen take a county-owned ambulance on the call.
Puckett EMS, contracted by Dade County for ambulance services in October, rolls out on Wednesday to a call of a possible stroke. Paramedic Joe Storm and Mandy Allen take a county-owned ambulance on the call.
Photo by Ben Benton.

TRENTON, Ga. -- Puckett EMS' new ambulance service in Dade County has been "smooth as silk," fielding as many as 60 calls over the first two weeks of its contract, officials said.

"Our average response time is well below our goal. Right now we're averaging about 10 minutes till our personnel pull up on the scene," said Andrew Condrey, Puckett operations manager for North Georgia and Tennessee.

Puckett was awarded the contract with Dade -- about $123,000 annually -- in October, replacing Lifeguard Medical Services, which had provided the service for the previous three years.

Puckett operates two ambulances, 24 hours a day, with a paramedic and emergency medical technician as crew, Condrey said. One ambulance belongs to the county, the other to Puckett.

The company's backup plan for busy times already came in handy with the high number of calls this month, he said.

"Even though we have dedicated resources assigned to Dade, if those resources become sufficiently depleted, we can start drafting from our operation over in East Ridge," Condrey said.

The 10-minute average response time includes the busy times, he said.

Puckett EMS is a family-owned business based in Powder Springs, Ga., according to the company's website. Its largest customer is Cobb County, Ga., and Puckett operates in other Georgia counties as well as providing services for Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga.

EMT Eric Sikes, originally from the Atlanta area, said the ambulances are equipped with communications and mapping equipment so even crew members who are still learning their way around can have good directions.

On Wednesday, Sikes was teamed with longtime local paramedic Sandra Gray, while the other ambulance was crewed by paramedic Joe Storm and local resident and EMT Mandy Allen. Local crew members help in piloting the rural county, Sikes said.

Director of Dade County Emergency Services Alex Case said he's happy with the company's performance so far.

"I keep a pretty tight leash on them because they're taking care of our taxpayers and visitors who are coming through," he said.

Monthly meetings and weekly conference calls will keep everyone up to speed, he said.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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