President’s Corner: Inauguration of the Emergency Services Training Center | Columnists

The Columbia County Board of Supervisors and I invite everyone to attend the grand opening and open house for the new Columbia County Emergency Services Response Center, 50 Grandinetti Drive, Ghent, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 21.

The new facility will be dedicated in honor of PJ Keeler, who served as the county’s EMS coordinator for the past 22 years. The dedication ceremony begins at 10 a.m.

To me, this is a fitting tribute to a gentleman who, day after day, puts his heart and soul into his role as EMS Coordinator. Plus, in complex work at the easiest times, the pandemic has increased PJ’s work in a major way, and he’s risen to that challenge.

On May 21, in addition to the groundbreaking ceremony, demonstrations of the facility’s capabilities are planned by firefighters, emergency services and law enforcement. In addition, kiosks displaying information on agency and training center equipment suppliers will be on site.

“We’re planning live demonstrations of some of the training props we have at the new facility,” county fire coordinator George Keeler said, “as well as interactive training props that the public can participate in.”

Keeler said one of the props would be a digital fire extinguisher or hose, on which the audience could practice putting out a digital fire. There will also be a live demonstration of the vehicle’s fire accessory. Additionally, the County Hazardous Materials team will have equipment on display and be available to answer questions, and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office will be conducting demonstrations.

Most county fire companies/departments are expected to participate in the grand opening and protests, he said. A recruitment retention kiosk will be set up for those interested in becoming a member of the fire department.

“I think this dedication is a great honor for someone who has done so much for Columbia County Emergency Services. On behalf of the fire department, we would like to thank the Board of Supervisors for putting this project together and of course PJ for helping us in so many ways over the years,” Keeler said.

PJ’s contributions to county emergency services are seemingly endless.

He has been an active member of the AB Shaw Fire Society for 46 years, a member for 13 years and current Deputy Commissioner of the Claverack District Fire Board of Commissioners, and a member of the Greenport Rescue Squad for 42 years, having served on their board of directors for 40 years.

He is credited with instituting a number of programs that benefited all of the county’s emergency, fire, and police departments. PJ worked tirelessly with agencies to create and implement an EMS system that would provide stability, reduce response times and improve patient outcomes. His tireless efforts ultimately resulted in the creation of a one-of-a-kind EMS system in Columbia County. The new system went live in 2010 and has saved countless lives (including the life of a patient involved in a car accident on the very first day the system was launched). Today, counties and agencies across New York State (and beyond) regularly contact PJ to learn more about the system he pioneered.

Those in attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 21 will learn more about PJ’s accomplishments over the years. But for those who can’t, all residents can be grateful for all that PJ has done to raise the bar for county emergency services.

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