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County ambulances serve Jekyll residents
The Jekyll Island Fire Department has only one ambulance to respond to emergencies at the state park. When that unit is undergoing maintenance or is responding to another call, the department must seek outside help.

That means calling the Glynn County Fire Department for backup and waiting for an ambulance to make its way across Downing Musgrove Causeway and through the island's greeting station.

"We have a standing protocol to call Glynn County to back us up," said Jekyll Island Fire Chief Jason Richardson.

It doesn't happen often, said Richardson, but the department does ask the county for help between five and six times a year. They can also request a fire engine to respond to an emergency that requires more units.

But Glynn County can only send an ambulance or fire engine if the department can still comfortably protect its area, said Glynn County Fire Chief Al Thomas.

"We have to have units available and be able to cover our responsibilities," Thomas said.

Luckily for an elderly woman experiencing breathing problems Friday, the county was able to dispatch an ambulance to the state park, the beginning of the busy Labor Day weekend. Jekyll's only ambulance was undergoing repair at the time.

The additional time for a county ambulance to reach Jekyll from the mainland - officials say that time is about 10 minutes - is not enough to warrant consideration of a second emergency unit for the state park's fleet.

"I don't think we can really justify another ambulance and another crew," Richardson said.

The population of Jekyll Island, mostly made up of elderly residents, can more than double during the spring and summer months with the arrival of motel guests, conventions attendees and day visitors.

Eric Garvey, chief communications officer for the Jekyll Island Authority, which operates the state park, echoed Richardson's statement.

"We obviously don't think there's a need for backup equipment," Garvey said, adding that it is a "rare occurrence" to seek outside help for emergencies.

There are those who think it's an issue that deserves at least some thought, including island resident Larry Waldhauer, treasurer of the Jekyll Island Citizens Association.

He says the island's ambulance was there when he needed it but thinks a study concerning if a second ambulance is needed would be helpful.

"Maybe some sort of study should be looked at to see what the situation is and how much use that ambulance is getting," Waldhauer said.

Tyse Eyler, a resident on the island for 30 years and a former president of the citizens group, says the response time of the island ambulance is fast. He gives the fire department high marks.

"You cannot believe how quick the response is, and they're so friendly," Eyler said. "I can't imagine getting that kind of response if I lived over in the county."

Eyler's had his own experience with the island ambulance. Eyler has had three pacemakers and needed care when one didn't seem to be doing its job."When my first (pacemaker) didn't seem to be working right, they put me in that ambulance and got me over to Brunswick," he said.

Calling for help from Glynn County doesn't cost the authority anything, Garvey said, because there is a cooperative agreement between the county and the authority.

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