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In a medical emergency, minutes matter.

The time it takes emergency personnel to respond to a scene can be the difference between life and death and even impacts the rate at which a patient recovers from a medical event or an accident involving injury.

Beginning Sunday, Cornwall Borough and residents who live in Lebanon County’s “Southern Tier” will begin to experience shorter response times thanks to an agreement between First Aid and Safety Patrol (FASP), Cornwall Borough, and the Community Fire Company of Cornwall Borough to house a crew and equipment within Community’s firehall located at 50 Rexmont Road.

The agreement, which includes having an emergency crew onsite daily between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., means response times to emergencies in that part of the county will be cut in half from its current average of 10.2 minutes, according to Gregg Smith, Director, FASP. 

Read More: First Aid and Safety Patrol enters 2020 with improved financial condition

“When you call 911, every minute seems like an eternity,” Smith said. “While the 10 minute response rate is within industry standards (of 14 minutes), that’s not OK, that’s not acceptable to us. We want to do better than that on behalf of residents.”

The new service impacts an estimated 8,000 residents in Cornwall Borough, West Cornwall Township and those living in the southern and mostly rural portions of South Lebanon Township, according to Smith.

While the agreement does not include Mt. Gretna Borough, which is covered by Lawn EMS, Mt. Gretna residents will still potentially benefit under the concept of mutual aid, which is an agreement among emergency responders to lend assistance across jurisdictional boundaries as needed. Mutual aid occurs when a local unit is on a call and a neighboring emergency crew is needed to respond to a separate emergency call, according to Smith.

Read More: Local police mostly unaffected by COVID-19, mutual aid agreement in place

In Cornwall Borough, the agreement signals the return of a locally housed crew and equipment for the first time since the 1990s.

Borough council had been in discussions, starting in July 2019, about returning service to the area and began exploring housing emergency services at the borough office, the firehall or at Cornwall Manor, the location where a majority of emergency calls for the borough originate. Cornwall Manor is a half-mile from the firehall and just over five miles from Lebanon, where FASP is located.

“This is a big benefit for everyone who lives in the borough and we’re grateful to First Aid and Safety Patrol and the fire company for working together to make this happen,” says Cornwall Borough Manager Cody Rhoads. “This is a huge win for our (4,112) residents in every imaginable way.”

Rhoads said the borough paid $16,448 this year for FASP services when the unit was located in Lebanon city and will pay the organization $18,500 in 2021, which he calls “a wise investment in the health and welfare of community residents.”

Although discussions began in 2019 to bring ambulance services back to the borough, the fire company did not get involved until the middle part of 2020, according to Eric Reddinger, Fire Chief of the Community Fire Company of Cornwall Borough.

Reddinger said the fire company was approached in late summer about its interest in placing the unit and crew within the firehall.  Following informational sessions between the volunteer fire company’s personnel and meetings with FASP officials, the company voted earlier this month to roll out the welcome mat to FASP staff. While working out of the firehall, crews will have access to the company’s kitchen, dining room, dayroom and bathroom facilities, Reddinger added.

“As you can imagine, the fire company is here to save lives and property and since seconds count in a medical emergency, this agreement will greatly benefit the residents of Cornwall Borough as well as visitors and others who may need emergency services while they are in the area,” said Reddinger. 

For Smith, the agreement is about being good stewards to the community.

“This partnership will allow us to provide the best response time to the people who support us, the community,” said Smith. “When your loved one has an emergency, the response time means everything in the world to you and to them.”

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James Mentzer

James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; and Lancaster...


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