In March 19 IssueBy Greg WellsTimes Journal Managing Editor
It has been three weeks, and the new Ambulance Service Director, Kerry Joe Flanagan said he is settling into the position, and "It feels great to be home."
Flanagan started his service to the public here right out of high school and left to pursue a television-inspired dream.
It was the old show, 'Emergency' that introduced him and most of the American public to paramedics, and Flanagan said he knew right away that was the job for him.
Since there weren't any local programs he said he took a position in Georgia to get that training, and then stayed on 21 years. But, he said he never lost touch with his home and family.
Flanagan said he was aware of the situation at the Russell County Ambulance Service because he reads the Times Journal, and when he saw that the position of director was going to be open he couldn't pass up the chance to come home.
As he said he is glad to be back, but there is no doubt this is work.
He and other staff worked through a billing problem this week and on leaving the room he said of himself, "People with grey hair shouldn’t be allowed on computers."
And with just a few weeks into the new job he has had to bring out skills new to the position.
The previous week included a wreck that took the life of a mother and a child and injured other children gravely, and he said that is hard on the ambulance crews and police officers who worked the scene.
This week ending with the death of one of their own, "Curbs" , who was a "member of the family," as Flanagan put it.
He wasn't actively working for the service but Flanagan said he had been a long-time member of the team and the crew at the Russell County Ambulance Service was again dealing with stress.
Too much stress isn't healthy for anyone, and with dealing with the multiple injuries and deaths the proceeding week and then the added stresses from the death of a coworker Flanagan brought them together last weekend in a "peer-counseling" event.
He explained that he was involved in the program, called Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, when it first came to Georgia in 1989.
Flanagan said people in the high-stress fire, police and ambulance services use the program to learn from co-workers the best way to deal with all the unique stresses that come with the job.
Flanagan is a certified and experienced in the program, and said he is hoping to get a regional program started here to help others who do this work stay happy, healthy and on the job.
But first he said he has been concentrated on the more immediate tasks of scheduling, billing and other such duties.
Flanagan said he is working closely with the 911 Emergency Dispatch Supervisor and has opened lines of communications with that team downstairs in the Ambulance Service Building.
Having served as director of an enhanced 911 center in the past Flanagan said he has an appreciation for the challenges and issues they face daily.
He said he is working toward expanded training for his crews, as well as outreach training and services and, "I'm hoping to soon fill the open EMT slots we have."