Jared Harris
  • GCFD’s first EMS Battalion Chief plays crucial role

  • May 2 2018

We’ve all seen them – usually while passing the scene of a car accident: the straight, “backboard” stretchers used to transport patients in and out of ambulances. At first glance, it’s hard to imagine how this basic equipment could be improved.

It turns out that the stretchers do have an issue: their rigidity means that accident victims often try to adjust themselves, attempting to be more comfortable. In many cases, this movement causes additional harm.

A solution has come in the form of a new stretcher called a CombiCarrier. It’s a two-piece, collapsible device that contours to the patient’s body. This increases comfort, “and if they’re comfortable,” GCFD EMS Battalion Chief Jared Harris explained, “they won’t move around, and they’ll do less damage.”

The stretcher, which is being used in Goose Creek, is one of many advancements made virtually every day in the field of Emergency Medical Services. Keeping up with these trends is one of Harris’s responsibilities.

The Goose Creek Fire Department’s EMS Battalion Chief is a newly-created position, and Harris – recently promoted from the rank of Captain – is the first to fill it.

The EMS Battalion Chief oversees the department’s medical response operation.

In addition to personally responding to calls, Harris’s duties include overseeing every firefighter’s training, which is done in-house at the GCFD; ensuring ambulances remain DHEC compliant; keeping a close, daily check on the literally hundreds of life-saving drugs and medical devices used in the field; and, perhaps most importantly, closely monitoring every EMT and Paramedic.

“I make sure the morale stays up,” he said. “When you know that you are appreciated and needed, when you enjoy who you work around, then you become better at your job.”

In Goose Creek, every firefighter is either an EMT or a Paramedic. That’s not the case at most fire departments, and it creates more layers of expense and responsibility … but it’s a good thing for residents, and it’s one of the benefits of living here.

Every Goose Creek fire truck is equipped with medical equipment and supplies. Harris often uses a Chevrolet Tahoe with the full complement of medical supplies. “If I’m closer to (an emergency call) than the ambulance or other units, I’ll respond, and get their faster,” Harris said. “That’s the goal.”

Around 10 percent of EMS calls each year constitute serious emergencies.

Joining the GCFD was a natural choice for Harris. “When I was young, my dad was a fireman,” he said. “I always had a passion for this profession.”

To increase the chances of fulfilling his lifelong goal of becoming a Chief, Harris earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Administration, and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership. He joined the GCFD in 2002.

Assistant Fire Chief Norm Cutshall calls Harris a natural leader.  “When he sees a problem, he jumps into it,” Cutshall said. “I’ve supervised Jared since he became a Captain, and he just gets better and better at this job all the time. He’s willing to ask questions, and he listens … he does all the things a leader should do.”

There are no “off days” at a fire department, and Harris’s workload is constant. Yet he relishes the challenge.

His favorite part of the job? “I love the interaction with the citizens,” he said. “I meet lots of people with interesting stories, people I would never interact with if not for this profession.”

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