Orange County broke ground on a new EMS station in Efland last Thursday to replace the current station which is in a much smaller building.
The new Orange County EMS Station 4 building will be the first standalone station built by the county, and construction is expected to be completed by summer 2023.
The station is located at 3800 Highway 70 West and will replace the current EMS Station 4 on Mt. Willing Road.
“It’s huge for us,” Orange County EMS Division Chief Kim Woodward said. “We’ve always either stationed at a rescue squad building or we borrowed other county facilities, but none of those things were actually built to meet our needs.”
She said the current station was originally designed to store equipment for a volunteer rescue squad, and that she knew for several years that the division had outgrown the station. It consists of two areas: an ambulance bay and an open area for 24-hour operations.
Once the new facility is built, the existing station will no longer be used.
Orange County Board of County Commissioners Chair Renee Price said that the new location will bring services closer to more people and provide direct access to rural areas.
“Our first responders deserve to have state-of-the-art accommodation so that they can do their work and so they’re comfortable," Price said. "They need a home when they’re out in the field.”
Orange County Emergency Services Director Kirby Saunders said the decision to replace the station has been in the works for over 10 years.
He said that the current station does not have sufficient space for equipment or crews and that the current ambulance is too large to fit in the bay.
Woodward also explained the current station also does not have a generator, requiring the crew to evacuate in the case of severe weather.
According to Saunders, the new building will use solar power as a backup energy source to keep the station operational during power outages.
“We’ve designed this building to be resilient for future hazards and threats,” he said.
The new building is set to have individual bunk rooms, a room dedicated to exercise, a kitchen, an office space and an outdoor patio.
Woodward said that Orange County field providers and emergency medical technicians worked directly with the architectural team to design the features of the station.
“They are the ones that chose the layout of the rooms and the kitchen, so they had a lot of feedback and put a lot of work into it,” she said.
The new station will also have two ambulance bays and a public access space. Saunders said there will be a window to communicate with the station office, and that the door will be open and accessible to everyone.
He said the space will also fully implement ramp alerting technology, which will change the way the station indicates that providers have a call to respond to.
Instead of using loud buzzers and horns and immediate bright lights —which, according to Saunders, research has shown to be traumatizing mentally, physically and cardiovascularly — ramp alerting technology slowly brings up red light and wakes the crew with a more pleasing tone.
Saunders said that the new station demonstrates the growth and stability of the Orange County EMS Department and that it ensures that they can provide services for years to come.
He added that the EMTs and providers are very excited to see their input become reality.
“This is more than a station for us,” he said. “It will be home.”
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