Abner ready for challenges as EMS Director

Posted January 29, 2020 at 9:33 am


Lucas Abner was recently hired as the official head of Clinton County’s emergency systems, after being named the interim director several months ago.

Abner was hired officially on Thursday, January 16, during the Clinton County Fiscal Court meeting.

Abner’s officials title(s) are: Clinton County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Chief/Emergency Management Director/911 Director.

Although Abner is relatively new to his position, he has been a member of the Albany Fire Department and been an EMT for the past 15 years working in Clinton and surrounding counties.

“The biggest thing with the new position is the Emergency Management Director and all the training that goes along with that,” Abner said. “Some of it I’ve already had prior to taking the position, due to being a supervisor here.”

Abner said he has been a supervisor at Clinton County for the past 10 years.

“It’s been a little overwhelming, but it’s good,” Abner said. “The county judge has worked with us well to make it the best we can. The biggest thing, like I said, was the Emergency Management position because I have to learn about the 9-1-1 side of things as well with that being apart of my job description.”

Being the 9-1-1 Director also comes with being able to maintain a budget and make sure spending is being done where it’s needed, according to Abner.

He said he has placed a supervisor to handle the day-to-day items, but he is still the point of contact if something goes wrong.

With both departments under Abner’s thumb, he is responsible for around 30 county employees.

“The EMS works 24 on and 48 off so their schedule stays pretty consistent,” Abner said. “Making sure they get their vacations and time off when they are sick is sometimes pretty difficult. Mainly that’s because we are short staffed and that’s all over the state. Scheduling is always an issue. My job description, I feel like, is if there isn’t enough coverage then I have to step in and be the one to do it.”

Abner has to be certified and trained to take on any role within his department if needed at any time.

“I’ve already been in dispatch several nights because we’ve had a shortage,” Abner said. “If we get busy, then it is easy for me to step back into the truck. I’ve kind of went from working a couple days per week to working five and sometimes seven.”

Even though it’s a huge responsibility for anyone, Abner said he enjoys his job.

“I’ve seen a lot of things happen as an employee and a lot of the things have happened that we talked about as employees,” Abner said. “We are seeing a lot of improvements come that I feel we needed. We wanted to see our morale pick up with the employees and I think we’ve seen that.”

Abner said he first started in the Albany Fire Department and quickly made the transition over to EMT after seeing what all it was about.

“I was on the fire department with some of the guys who were on the EMS at the time and they encouraged me to come up,” Abner said. “Seeing those guys and doing some ride time, I quickly went on to EMT class and then became an employee. I enjoy all of it … even the fire service, but now I’m more limited to being here.”

With being an EMT all over the state, including surrounding counties, Abner said there are some things in other places he would like to see done in Clinton County.

“I’ve took a lot of things I’ve seen work really well in other places and tried to implement them here,” Abner said. “Sometimes a few things that were done in Pulaski County might not be great for Clinton County, but there are some things we can bring to our population that can help.”

Seeing how other counties run their EMS programs and taking the good things from those places and trying to implement them here can be a good thing for Clinton County.

“Some of the things we need to adjust for our population, run time, run volume and that sort of thing,” Abner said. “We are Clinton County. Are we capable of doing the same great things that everyone else is capable of doing? Absolutely! We may not be able to do as much of it at the same time. We have some of the most highly qualified people here. Almost all paramedics we have here are critical care paramedics, so they have went above and beyond being just a paramedic.”

Abner said he would put Clinton County’s employees up against anyone’s in the state. He said there are some EMTs who have been here for 20 plus years.

In order to keep the county in coverage, Abner said he must have two ambulances ready at all times and when one is sent out of town, then another is set on standby.

“You have to keep the county covered,” Abner said. “It’s always been a struggle.”

Being such a small unit with only four EMTs and two dispatchers on at all times, Clinton County does have access to a huge advantage when it comes to critical care.

“It’s very important to have Air Evac in this building with us. We communicate with them very well and know when they can fly and when they are grounded,” Abner said. “With our Air Evac being here and with us only having two trucks, that gives us the availability that if that patient needs to go to Cookeville (Tennessee) or needs to go to Lexington (Kentucky), we can get them there and get them there quick.”

With being in a small rural community, Clinton County is basically 100 miles plus from the nearest trauma center and 50 miles from the closest cardiologist.

“A lot of times those people don’t have the time, so we have the helicopter right here in our base,” Abner said. “We know those guys … we work with them and we train with them.”

Abner said the whole building is a team and it takes a whole team working together to provide the level of care needed for the county.

“Whether it be Air Evac, EMS even the fire department … we are a team,” Abner said.

Lucas Abner was recently hired to lead and direct Clinton County’s emergency services. The long-time EMT is shown at the Clinton County Emergency Services Building in the bay where the ambulances sit when they are not on runs.