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Athens to get faster emergency response

By Holly Hollman · 340-2445

ATHENS — It could take you only five minutes to read this story.

Those five minutes might not seem significant to you in that context, but what if you knew help could reach you in three to five minutes during a heart attack or wreck?

Athens Fire and Rescue has received a $35,000 grant to start an emergency medical services program that will speed up response time.

Chief Cliff Christopher said the money will provide equipment and training so firefighters can respond to wrecks with injury, stroke victims, heart attack victims or any critical medical call.

“Between the ambulance service and us having three fire stations, we can reach anyone in the city within three to five minutes,” Christopher said.

Now, firefighters respond to wrecks, but only the ambulance service responds to critical medical calls.


Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison, and Rep. Henry White, D-Athens, announced the grant Tuesday. Butler said this money will include purchasing defibrillators for the department’s stations.

“Every school in Limestone County, including private schools, and all the volunteer fire departments have defibrillators,” Butler said. “Now we can provide those for the city department and go a step further and start an EMS program.”

Butler had a heart attack 15 years ago and was saved when someone with the Madison Fire Department used a defibrillator on him.

“That’s a good statement, that you can say this is a project that is dear to my heart,” Butler said.

Christopher said he has been working with the representatives and Mayor Dan Williams for a year to get the grant.

“We want to be able to keep victims stable until an ambulance arrives,” Christopher said.

All new firefighters get basic emergency medical technician training, he said.

“Our goal is to get as many EMTs within the department as we can,” he said. “We already have two paramedics.”

The grant, from tax money, came through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

Christopher said he plans to have the equipment and his personnel trained by January. After that is complete, the department will start responding to critical medical calls.

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