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Where I Stand: Public safety system in Plumas on verge of collapse

Elected Board Members, Elected Officials and County Department Heads:

My name is Sam Blesse, and I am the Chairman of the Plumas County Emergency Medical Care Committee, which is an advisory group to this Board. I am also the Emergency Medical Services Supervisor for Care Flight, who is contracted to provide emergency medical services for Central Plumas County, which includes the greater Quincy area and Indian Valley. I know that there has been a long list of county employees that have come before the board over the past year regarding the ongoing public safety crisis that is unfolding. I am not a county employee and I am hoping that my voice will bring a different viewpoint.

Over the past 15 years, there have been major improvements in the dispatch process of ambulances when a 911 response call is received. In decades past, calls would be transferred to the local hospitals and they in turn would dispatch their ambulance. This process was an antiquated relic from the actual inception of EMS in this county that started in the 1970s. Multiple years ago, Plumas County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch realized that they already were taking the 911 call and it would be much quicker for them to page the appropriate ambulance and fire department. This change has saved significant time in getting resources responding to emergencies. The current staffing crisis at Plumas County Sheriff’s Office, specifically the dispatch center, poses a clear threat to the citizens of Plumas County receiving assistance in an expedient manner during an emergency.

PCSO Dispatch is the ONLY Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) in Plumas County. We do not have the luxury that other counties have of having a secondary PSAP nearby that can help us, such as CalFire. The current staffing issues at the dispatch center have already led to a cutback in services, but to date they have still been able to provide the most important task of paging our crews and getting them responding to calls expeditiously. If PCSO dispatch loses any more staff, there is a real possibility that they will not be able to dispatch our fire and EMS crews to 911 calls in the county. We have no other options. The days of the hospitals dispatching the ambulances are gone. They do not have the infrastructure to perform this duty anymore. Every time a 911 call is transferred there is a risk of disconnection with the caller. Additionally, it always adds minutes to the process of getting resources dispatched. We are in a business where minutes truly matter. The Emergency Medical Care Committee has discussed back up options and none of them are viable alternatives from a safety, financial or logistical standpoint.

Our public safety system is on the verge of collapse. The perceived inaction from this Board and County leadership is frustrating. If work is being done to mitigate this impending crisis, I implore you to communicate that to the public. We are all aware that this is a multi-layered issue, which includes county processes, wages and employee retention. I ask that you urgently address the issues that are within your control, specifically wages and the delay in the hiring process of county employees. The word “can’t” should not be in the vocabulary. Please work together to come up with solutions now and show the public that you are aware of how serious this situation is. We need to see that you are actively working to fix this dire situation.


Sam Blesse

Plumas County EMCC, Chairman

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