New emergency unit used in Horry County for non-life threatening 911 calls

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – In the past, no matter what kind of medical call came in, Horry County Fire Rescue would send an ambulance.

“If you had a knee pain they’d come here or if you had a heart attack they’d come here,” said Horry County Fire Rescue Captain Mark Nugent.

On Wednesday, HCFR rolled out a new way to respond to those non-life threatening 911 calls.

“It’s the first of its kind for our county,” said Nugent about the new Basic Life Support Unit. “There are no paramedics on it. There are two EMTs.”

Nugent explained how calls at the department are categorized as Advanced Life Support (ALS) or Basic Life Support (BLS).

ALS calls are life-threatening emergencies like chest pains, strokes or overdoses, and BLS are non-life threatening like back pain, fractures or hypertension.

Nugent said the new BLS Unit only responds to those non-life threatening calls, which keeps ambulances in the county available for true, potentially deadly situations.

“We want to send the right help to the right situation,” Nugent explained. “If we can take that burden off those Advanced Life Support units, keep them in service longer, not going after these non-emergency-type calls, I  think we’ll provide a better service overall.”

The BLS unit will work out of the Forestbrook station in the Myrtle Beach area but will respond to a much wider area to include some parts of Socastee and Carolina Forest. Forestbrook was chosen because it previously had the highest call volume for an area without a medic unit.

Nugent said about 85% of all the department’s calls are medical, and data from 2016 shows about 40% of all medical calls in the Forestbrook area were not considered potentially fatal calls.

“If this works, we’ll expand this out further,” said Nugent. “I think it’s a good service we provide to our community.”

Nugent said while EMTs on the BLS Units will not perform airway procedures or carry cardiac drugs, they will carry defibrillators, oxygen, glucose and nebulizer treatments.