Jefferson County Commission

Company Begins Study to Shorten Jefferson County Emergency Response Times, Some of More Than 3 Hours

Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens in a meeting 7/13/21. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

The problem of extended ambulance response times didn’t pop up overnight, and the solution won’t either, according to a consultant Jefferson County is bringing in to address the situation.

“This is our first day on the project,” Joseph “Jay” Fitch, founding partner of Fitch and Associates, said Tuesday at the committee meeting of the Jefferson County Commission. “We’re going to be to touring your 911 center and working with an advisory group of municipal officials and fire chiefs today.”

Fitch said the first part of the project is discovering data so his company knows when and where emergency calls occur. Knowing that, he said, the company can look at different kinds of options for emergency medical service coverage.

“We’ve been doing this for about 40 years,” Fitch said. “Our firm’s based in Kansas City (and) I live in Natchez, Mississippi. I actually come to Jefferson County every other week on a project with my wife with the (Greater Birmingham) Humane Society, so I’m in your community pretty regularly.”

Commission President Jimmie Stephens said long ambulance response times have been an ongoing problem for more than nine months. He said the extended wait times for an ambulance for emergencies, including heart attacks, sometimes exceed three hours.

“Those people are having to (use) their personal transports,” he said. “What we’re doing is we’ve hired a national consultant to come in and to analyze the situation to try to find the proper course of action to alleviate that problem.”

Siren Inspection

Emergencies were a repeated theme during Tuesday’s meeting. The Emergency Management Agency presented a resolution to conduct an annual inspection and on-site maintenance for Jefferson County’s outdoor warning sirens.

And while the emergency alert system includes notifications on cellphones, Stephens said sirens are still very important.

“That’s a vital tool,” he said. “When people are outside at the parks, when you hear that siren, you receive that notification and you know that you’re in immediate danger. If you were out gardening and (didn’t) have your telephone, this gives you an opportunity to get to safety.”

Commissioner Sheila Tyson asked how siren sites are selected. Stephens said they are supposed to be where the population is and where they can be heard.

“They’re mainly (triangulated) around schools and parks where people can hear outdoors,” he said.

The county attorney’s office presented a resolution that calls for a public hearing on Aug. 12 to consider a petition for annexation to the Rocky Ridge Fire District.

Commissioner Steve Ammons said the properties in question are in “a little Swiss cheese hole in a Hoover, right off Highway 31” on Patton Chapel Road.

“They’re annexing that in because if it’s outside their regular area,” Ammons said. “It’s more difficult to contract because then you’re always doing contracts. By annexing it in, it’s permanent.”