Blount EMS rolls out new ambulance unit, deals with surge in calls



Blount EMS is the proud owner of a new ambulance unit (above) bringing its fleet total to 11 units. The new unit is equipped with the state’s required equipment necessary to provide life saving care, but Blount EMS Director Weslie Powell said some of his units are fitted with added equipment, such as ventilators, that can really make a difference when treating extremely critical patients.

Through training, Powell says first responders are qualified to provide more advanced care, administering cardiac drugs and treatments you typically see in a hospital setting. This training has afforded the Blount EMS crew the ability to treat critical patients in the field, which can be the difference between life and death.

Blount EMS also offers continuing education courses throughout the year to their staff as well as other county first responders. Staying up-to-date with care protocol and ever-changing regulations is extremely important. The emphasis Powell places on learning and continuing education ensures the crew is ready for even the most critical patients.

Blount EMS has seen a surge in calls throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Powell said their call volume has increased significantly. The staff, however, has not.

The EMS service runs approximately four ambulances each day to serve the near 60,000 citizens of Blount County. The challenge of higher call volume has not deterred first responders from being ready to aide the public in their time of need. He said his staff is eager to work and fill the shifts, even when some of their own have come down with COVID-19.

Another issue Blount EMS has dealt with recently is longer transports. Powell said his first responders have been providing transports further and further away from home. COVID-19 has filled area hospitals at near capacity so Blount EMS has been transporting patients to Tuscaloosa and as far away as Atlanta and Nashville for care. This is tying up ambulance units, at times resulting in the need to call for mutual aide from nearby counties.

Plus, call volume has increased significantly. For the month of November, Blount EMS averaged 140 to 150 transports. In the second week of December, the staff completed 184 transports, in one week alone, keeping first responders hopping.

The challenge of responding to higher call volumes is compounded when transports reach the hospital. The speediness of triage and patient intake has slowed due to the increased volume of COVID-19 patients in emergency departments.

Despite all the challenges first responders are facing, the calls are being answered. Powell said his staff’s dedication is incredible and he is proud of the way they have stepped up.

As far as staff safety, Powell said his staff is taking all necessary precautions on calls to protect both the patients and themselves. Each unit is stocked with the necessary PPE to provide maximum safety from airborne illnesses such as COVID-19. After each call, the transport vehicles are decontaminated with hospital grade disinfectant and are restocked.

It is not just hospital workers who are tackling this ever-mounting pandemic; first responders have once again answered the call.