July 04--A Facebook post created by the Center Fire Department on Wednesday declaring two EMS stations have closed indefinitely is only partially true, according to Aiken County Emergency Services Director Tommy Thompson.
The post stated, "Aiken County EMS Station 5 & 6 closed indefinitely, until further notice."
Station 5 is located off of York Street, and Station 6 is located on the property of J.D. Lever Elementary School.
Center Fire Department is located on Highway 1 near I-20 and has a contract with Aiken County for fire service, County Administrator Clay Killian said.
Thompson said it's not unusual for EMS stations to be closed down periodically due to a lack of personnel.
"Last (Wednesday) night, Station 6 was open," Thompson said. "This (Thursday) morning, we had a guy that called in sick and didn't have time to react. So we got a replacement to come in and go ahead with a full crew ... It's not unusual for us to do this; that's why we have a system in place."
When personnel are short on a given day, Aiken County reliefs on mutual-aid agreements with private providers.
Three private providers are included in the County's Emergency Response Network -- Capital City, South Star and Aiken Rescue. Jackson First Alert Rescue also participates when available and requested.
"If we have an issue, we call those private providers to stand up trucks if we need it," Thompson said. "Ideally, I would like to have all 10 stations up at all times. Since we don't, what we have to do is manage and emphasize we are ensuring adequate coverage for the whole county."
Killian didn't want to speculate as to why the post was created at all, but said Aiken County isn't closing any stations.
"We're still trying to staff all of our stations, and hopefully with this new salary raise kicking in starting tomorrow (Friday), hopefully, that will help out with our issue," Killian said. "We're covering everything the best we can. The station itself may not be opened, but people can still get EMS response."
Thompson added his staff are competent, dedicated and professional, and at the same time the department is continually trying to add manpower.
"Our primary mission, our goal, is to give adequate EMS service to ensure Aiken County has that service," Thompson said. "We do that by managing our personnel, utilizing our trucks and calling the private provider network as needed."
Calls made to the Center Fire Department were unanswered.
Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.
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