Golden Place To Live
December 20, 2021
Carroll County, Georgia (USA), is not densely populated as the neighboring metropolis might make you think. The county is rural with a population of 119,994 or about 238 people per square mile. The spread of where people live in the 504-square-mile-county figures into the implementation of the Medical Priority Dispatch System™ (MPDS®). ProQA® that went live in October.
But we’ll get to that later. Now more about the county itself.
Carroll County is predominantly dry land, though tending to swamp at the banks of both the Chattahoochee River and Little Tallapoosa River that dissect the county in half. By all accounts, it’s a relatively flat landscape on either side. That also depends on your perspective of elevation.
Carroll County averages an elevation of 950 feet, which is twice as high as any other county in Georgia and, remarkably, higher than the average elevation in 23 other states, mostly east, south, and in the Midwest. The Carroll County hills are the gentle, rolling type and belie a history you might not suspect.
In 1830 gold was found in those hills. Carroll County is the site of Georgia’s one and only gold rush. No one knows quite where or who found the first nuggets or flakes, but the news carried far and attracted thousands of people to the county during the same year that the area was officially declared a county in Georgia. The heyday didn’t last long. The gold played out, and the gold mining lost its glitter. California was the place to go, leaving the towns created by the boom to bust and become ghost towns. Commercial mining continued into the next century, though, for the most part, the fever was gone.
People like their history, and in Carroll County, the history lives on at the Pine Mountain Gold Museum, which gives an opportunity to strike gold like they did yesteryear, panning stream bed deposits for minerals. If gold panning isn’t your interest, there are plenty of hiking trails to follow and a rustic setting to admire.
The county is on the east state line separating Georgia from Alabama and one hour west of Atlanta, Georgia. Despite its proximity to Atlanta, Carroll County retains a small-town ambiance. There are major roads, neighborhood roads, back roads, and roads locals identify by anything
but a street name. It’s not hard to get lost. A mile outside the county seat, Carrollton, you'll see feeder cattle and cows destined for market, horses, poultry, corn and alfalfa fields, orchards, and farmers driving tractors, bailers, tillers, and combines. While Future Farmers of America and 4-H clubs might be dwindling in other parts of the country, they’re a big part of Carroll County youth activities.
Pressing need for protocol
So, what does this have to do with emergency communications?
Carroll County has a lot of open space to navigate for public safety and not an abundance of emergency equipment. There are six ambulance services in Carroll County. In numbers, that’s one ambulance service per 19,900 people, and one ambulance service per 83 square miles.
“In an area like this, it’s most pressing to find ways of helping while waiting for an ambulance to arrive,” said Clay Patterson, director of Carroll County E-911.
Patterson was raised in neighboring Haralson County and after graduating high school started his career in public safety two counties to the north of Carroll County in Bartow County. He worked his way from jail detention officer to field training officer, patrol officer, instructor, and through the ranks from corporal to sergeant. He was a Carroll County patrol deputy before hired to direct the communication center.
Patterson knows the county. He is well acquainted with most people in public service and has no doubt assisted people he knows by name. He has the county’s best interest at heart and started the E-911 job intent on bringing the center to the highest level of performance. After all, people expect 911 to help when they call, he said.
“That’s why protocol is particularly beneficial to a center like ours,” he said. “We can get the most detailed information for response and give callers the instructions they need before help arrives.”
Patterson negotiated MPDS implementation on several levels.
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners oversees the E-911 center as part of their duty to manage the day-to-day operations of the county, and there is also an advisory board made up of representatives from the 12 agencies they serve (fire, law enforcement, and ambulance). To prepare people for the change in communications, a page on the Carrollton County website provides information about the Protocol, including the use of PAIs.
Medical calls run the common line of stroke, difficulty breathing, and chest pain. Traumatic injuries are often related to farming accidents and outdoor recreation.
Weather is another factor in injury calls. Although not officially a state in Tornado Alley, Georgia holds the dubious distinction of having more tornadoes this year to-date (2021) than several prominent
Tornado Alley states including Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.1 On average, Georgia has 30 tornadoes each year. While tornadoes were a miss in Carroll County this past year, though plenty of alerts, that hasn’t always been the case. In February 2008 several tornadoes hit Carroll County destroying several homes and damaging many more. Then on May 11, 2008 (Mother's Day), some of the same areas were hit by more tornadoes that destroyed homes and businesses.
Tornadoes aside, the higher call volume comes in for law enforcement, and Carroll County E-911 averages 220,000 of these each year. The volume is high for a rural area, Patterson said, although they don’t get the violent crime associated with more urban areas. In a rare occurrence, three officers from different Carroll County agencies were wounded in April 2021 during a gunfight with suspects fleeing from a Georgia State Patrol traffic stop. One suspect was killed and the other arrested. Patterson described the calming, assuring voices of the emergency dispatchers during an awards ceremony honoring the officers.
“The selfless time put in by those who were called in to assist and never blinked an eye to help their fellow dispatchers, and to Dispatcher Bailey Troutt who knew her husband was being shot at and in immediate danger but still spoke to Officer Gordy [Villa Rica Police Department Officer Chase Gordy] being his calm in a world of uncertainty.”2
Patterson said despite his familiarity with emergency communications from working alongside them as a patrol officer, it is a whole new world for him. “Mostly it’s a culture shock moving from patrol to office,” he said, and now, more than ever, the birds-eye view is a message he brings to the public.
“They’re behind the scenes and every bit as important,” he said. “They play a big part in protecting our community and responders.”
1 Nord M. “Georgia is one of the top tornado states of 2021 so far.” Stormtracker. 2021; May 19. https://www.11alive.com/article/weather/stormtracker/georgia-is-one-of-the-top-tornado-states-of-2021-so-far/85-1596ddb2-ef72-49a3-909f-e4dc2e1d12a9 (accessed Sept. 21, 2021).
2 Carroll County GA News and Views. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/637138906631245 (accessed Sept. 20, 2021).