Safety director gives update at Rotary

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Emergency service operations are gradually being streamlined in Levy County, according to some officials.

Levy County Director of Public Safety David Knowles was special guest speaker at Suwannee Valley Rotary last week, and he gave an update on the department he’s headed up for the last 2 1/2 years.

The department, though involved in fire services and communications operations, concentrates on Emergency Medical Services, Knowles said.

"We're responsible for 1,100 square miles of the county — 41,000 people."

To provide those services more efficiently, Knowles has adopted a number of strategies, he said.

EMS units are now more spread out, as opposed to having those units concentrated in only a few select areas. An ambulance can be away on a call from two to three hours, he said, and that can mean longer response times in specific areas where coverage is lacking.

Units have been added to Bronson, Fanning Springs and Morriston to help reduce the "game of checkers" that results when another unit is on a call.

Cedar Key is the biggest area of concern right now, he said, explaining that there is a lack of coverage when Cedar Key's ambulance is away.

"There's no one to fill the space," he said.

Efficiency has also been improved with the addition of new "Sprinter" ambulances that have a lighter framework and get better gas mileage, Knowles said. And that helps save on the department's annual fuel budget of about $245,000. Fuel costs have been cut by about $100,000 annually, he said. The ambulances also use smaller, less expensive tires, which, considering how many miles are logged, make quite an impact, he said.

The county has also started replacing ambulances two at a time, rather than the old method of having to replace them all at once. The process helps keep maintenance costs down, he said.

Some of the smaller municipal fire departments have been merged with the county's fire department, as well, he said, which has enabled greater accountability in terms of how funds are managed.

And the county is also in the process of revamping its radio communications system, which in total is estimated to be about a $900,000 project.

"It's a solid system, "Knowles said about operation at LCDPS. "We're taking baby steps every day to improve it."