‘A key line of defense’

Sierra Rains
File photo from the Carter County Sheriff's office.

First responders from various departments are dispatched when a medical emergency or accident occurs. The location of the incident often determines who is the first to arrive on scene, whether it’s police, fire or emergency medical responders.

For those moments when deputies from the Carter County Sheriff’s Office are the first to arrive, Sheriff Chris Bryant said the department is exploring ways to further provide emergency medical care on scene.

While officers are already well-trained on first aid and CPR, Bryant said they will soon have another set of skills to better help the citizens of Carter County.

Last week, the sheriff’s department received a donation of nine new defibrillators, which can be used to help restore a normal heartbeat by sending an electric pulse or shock to an individual’s heart. Bryant said officers will be joining up with other agencies in the county to become certified to use the new devices.

“I’ll have those in patrol cars and that way we can — because a lot of times depending on where we’re at, sometimes we’re closer to the locations where they’re having a medical emergency and we can start doing the medical assessment ahead of time while first responders are in route,” Bryant said.

While first responders with the Southern Oklahoma Ambulance Service typically provide a large portion of the emergency medical care on the scene of accidents and other incidents, they can sometimes be 20 minutes away from the location where they need to be, Bryant said.

After Carter County voters rejected a 3 million dollar property tax increase to provide ambulance service in the area on Jan. 14, there is also a degree of uncertainty as to what will happen with the Carter County ambulance service financially after the next two years.

In November, SOAS Executive Director Bob Hargis told The Ardmoreite that funding was not able to keep pace with operating costs and in two years the service could be in severe funding distress.

“With the tax failing, people need to take a really close look at it and see what’s going to happen,” Bryant said. “We’re here to help the first responders and make sure that everybody’s covered and that way they get the best medical treatment that we can give them.”

The additional medical training for Carter County deputies comes with a general increase in training at the sheriff’s office through a recent contract with the International Academy of Public Safety.

Within the next couple of weeks, the 65 individuals who work for the department will start receiving additional college accredited and CLEET certified training in law enforcement, forensic science, fire and rescue. Officers will also be racking up additional mental health training, well-past the already required two hours.

“You can never have enough training and the increase in the county would be people are more knowledgeable, they’re always up on their training, they’re sharp and that way there is no lag time,” Bryant said.

It doesn’t stop there, however. Bryant said the department plans to continue looking into ways to better medically assist individuals and their fellow first responders, while SOAS explores alternative funding options.

“I think what’s happening is— you always need the first responders there, they are a key line of defense,” Bryant said. “They are underestimated because they are a key piece to the success of the county and first responders and medical attention.”