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Asheville Launches Community EMT Pilot Program

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In response to feedback from downtown stakeholders about the need for increased resources to maintain a welcoming, safe downtown experience, the City of Asheville will launch a Community EMT Pilot Program.

The vision is for this six-week pilot program to integrate the roles of public safety official and medical responder into one team. Under this pilot program, the Asheville Fire Department will operate two bike teams in conjunction with current Asheville Police Department’s Downtown Unit’s efforts in high-priority downtown areas, including the South Slope.

The City of Asheville wants to promote a healthy environment for all people downtown and realizes some people in our downtown area need additional support.

One goal of the Community EMT Program would be to deliver emergency medical services, if needed, and connect vulnerable populations to other services they may need. This could be in the form of blood pressure checks and guidance to resources, such as shelters and meal locations. First responders could also interact with people who have experienced opioid overdoses by offering information on where to get substance abuse assistance. At the same time, we recognize there is sometimes a challenge to connect service-resistant individuals with helping resources.

Another goal is for firefighters to interact with downtown businesses, residents and visitors while they are mobile. Firefighters will gather pre-plan information about downtown commercial buildings and record this information into a new data collection system to inform responders of the layout and of any hazards they may encounter if called to this location.

The trial Community EMT Pilot Program would give the City an opportunity to explore innovative solutions to complex issues involving vulnerable communities while gathering data about the effectiveness of program design. One measurement could be the effectiveness of proactive community presence in diverting calls to 9-1-1 as compared to the total number of calls from previous years. This could show if the pilot program is proactive enough to affect calls for emergency services, which are more costly.

Look for these new EMT teams on bikes downtown.

For more information, contact Assistant Fire Chief Barry Hendren at [email protected] or 828-259-5646.