On Thursday, May 5, 2022, HHI Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief of Operations, Chris Blankenship addressed the GIC General Membership meeting. He began as a college intern with the department 20 years ago and worked his way up the ladder in operations to his current staff position.
In 1993, the Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue department was opened. Services had previously been provided by Beaufort County. The department includes both fire and EMS. When you dial 911 on the Island, you get HHI’s own dispatch. Police emergencies on 911 are forwarded to Beaufort County while fire and EMS emergencies stay here.
There has been lots of change in recent years. Tourism is no longer a few summer months with a drop off after Labor Day. Dispatch gets 9,500 to 10,000 calls/year. The busiest days for incidents are Monday, Friday and Saturday and 7am – 7pm the busiest times.
There are 7 stations. #1 and #5 are 50% of the call volume. But #4 has increased significantly because of Bayshore outside of the back gate of HH Plantation on Squire Pope Road. It has more incidents than The Cypress, Tide Pointe or The Seabrook.
HHI Fire Rescue does EMS, Fire, Rescue and Hazmat with EMS being the largest by far. Top number of EMS calls are for general weakness, head injury and falls. Cardiac arrest care resuscitations dropped during the COVID pandemic. Now it is back up to 66%. We are outstanding and world renowned in this area. 65% of the calls are from area residents.
A new station in Sea Pines, which had been started in 2014 opened in June 2020. Delay in construction was due to Hurricane Matthew and other issues. The Open House celebration will be on June 3, 2022.
Pumper & Fleet replacement went out for competitive bid for state of the art equipment. The current trucks are 12 years old with last generation electronics. Parts are no longer available due to supply chain issues and the trucks are custom built with parts no longer made. Truck life as been stretched from the expected 10 years to 12.
The COVID pandemic sent the organization into the unknown with masks, covering of entire body by PPE (crew had PPE fatigue) and many more protocols. EMS coordinated with vaccinations and testing sites, providing two people to the local hospital in the original surge and then brought testing to the stations for the Delta surge.
The organization has had their 5th reaccreditation since 2002. They are very proud of that record since they are one of only 300 accredited agencies.
CPR – early recognition and bystander CPR is what gives people the best chance to survive. Note: Bystander CPR is emergency CPR administered by someone that close to the situation physically but not a part of an official response team dispatched from emergency services. Currently, they are just doing compressions not breathing before trying shock.
Recruitment stipend: right now there are 5 vacancies. People live far away and the housing market is pricing fire fighters out of housing. Many work part time jobs. 30% live on the island. Right now they have mandatory overtime. They must have breaks to be fit to work.
They are trading in or selling the old equipment. They will be leasing the new equipment with purchase option to buy it.
Call number: Memorial to Labor Day was running 32/day with 8 ambulances. Now running 25/day outside of the summer. Residents are getting older (56 median age).
Pulse Point: an app that HHI F & R personnel all use as do many Town leaders. It alerts you if you are near an emergency.
Now trying to build talent from local people without college degrees from school, military, etc. Employees can retire after 28 years and are vested after the first 8 with 20 left to retirement. They still have a pension system but no retirement healthcare benefit. Of 111 firefighters, only one is a woman, soon retiring. Management is trying hard to diversify the team with women and minorities. Minimum staffing in the big stations are 4 and 3 in smaller ones.
A community paramedic corp could handle things like fall.
Customer service is their #1 priority.
To view, download or print the Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue presentation, Click here.
More information about Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue can be found on their website. Click here.