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Checking up on paging systems and first responder mental health
Darlington EMS

DARLINGTON – Members of the Lafayette County EMS Association gathered at their monthly meeting, discussing issues going on throughout the county involving first responders in their communities.

Emergency Management director Theresa Burgess talked about the newest radio update happening with Green County and how it would affect certain communities in Lafayette County.

Communities like Argyle, Blanchardville, South Wayne and Woodford share townships in Green and Lafayette County. Blanchardville also has townships in Iowa and Dane Counties. Green County is updating its radio system to a digital system, the P25 simulcast system in 2021. Currently Lafayette County runs on an analog system. Green County’s system will mostly affect Argyle, South Wayne and Woodford. Blanchardville EMS is only paged through Green County due to Lafayette County having a poor signal in that area. South Wayne EMS has many of their pages handled by Green County as well due to the same issue with signal strength.

Burgess asked the question if it was time the county built out their radio system. She said the problem was less about the radios but more about the pagers. The radios are digital capable. Many pagers across the county don’t have that capability.

“This is a money issue,” Burgess said. “We don’t have all the answers now but it is time we figure out what is best for the county.”

Burgess suggested they could put a repeater back in Blanchardville to help the signal strength. She said there are thoughts in bringing Blanchardville and South Wayne pages back into Lafayette County.

“Iowa and Dane County call us and we tell them to call Green (when paging Blanchardville). The issue is the delay in service. Who should take the delay in service? Those agencies are in our county. Our residents should get the best service,” Burgess stated.

A concern for Blanchardville EMS member Ricky Hendrickson was having good communications. When the EMS squad leaves the county and travels to the Madison hospitals, they can’t get in contact with Green County. Burgess informed him that Lafayette County could communicate in Dane County, but just have poor signal in Blanchardville on portable radios. Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department squad car radios do work quite well in the area though.

Hendrickson added that if Blanchardville were to be paged by Lafayette, he would like to see that Lafayette County be the primary and not have to be going back and forth between the counties. He has seen confusion happen in Argyle due to being paged by one county and the EMS service thinking it was the other county.

Burgess said it is a cost that they had not anticipated but it is not a horrible scenario.

“It will be worked out but it is the matter of how we work it out and what the best thing for our county is as far as our first response and making sure we are servicing the county the best we can.”

First Responder Wellness

Burgess talked about the issue of having first responders take care of their mental health and how it has been a passion on hers to see that all first responders are taken care of. Rural areas deal with not having many resources to combat with those issues. Burgess recently joined the Southwest Tech Critical Incident Stress Management team (CISM), helping those who have gone through a traumatic incident understand their mental health and give them an outlet to discuss it.

“We don’t take good enough care of ourselves. How are you supposed to see what you see, deal with what you deal with and go on with the next day? We need to take care of our minds, our mental health.”

Not every call is the same and each call can affect each person differently. Being in the rural area, the difficult part of being part of a volunteer first responder or fire fighter is almost always knowing who you are there to help.

“That is the issue in rural areas is so many times it is someone you know personally or even know their family,” Darlington Area EMS member Jeff Berget mentioned.

Burgess wants to break down the stigma related to debriefings and to mental health as a whole. She suggested a few books for the committee to read by Tania Glenn, a psychologists that talks about different tactics to debriefing those who have gone through difficult situations.

Burgess hopes to be able to take away some of what Glenn has written in her books and create a local CISM team or have someone in Lafayette County trained to help improve the mental health of those who take care of everyone else.