Is Jefferson County the safest place in the North Country?

Ambulance (London). Photo: Lee Maguire, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Ambulance (London). Photo: Lee Maguire, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

A study out from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia finds that living an urban area is about 20 percent safer (with respect to injury-related death) than living an a rural area. That’s according to a story in the Watertown Daily Times.

What, you might say? Given the very visible hazards of urban life (being mowed down by a crazed driver as you try to cross the street, for example, or being set upon by West Side Story-style thugs in between dance numbers), that seems a bit mad. But the study (it’s not published yet but will soon appear in the Annals of Emergency Medicine) says it’s the case.

The study looked at more than 1.2 million injury-related deaths in the U.S., and found that people were most likely to die as a result of motor vehicle accidents, firearms and poisoning. And apparently those deaths are more likely to happen if you’re in the country than if you’re in the city (There’s much more information in the article on exactly how this plays out — at least some of it has to do with the availability of trauma care.) This is particularly true of car accidents, which Jefferson County Emergency Services Director Charles Brenon III says in the paper are the leading reason for trauma calls.

Chest pain, cardiac and respiratory arrest and breathing problems were the second highest number; after that was falls (which officials consider to be a huge and somewhat avoidable issue), followed by behavioral issues like overdoses, poisoning, psychiatric incidents, suicide attempts and “abnormal behavior.” The county dispatch log “doesn’t include a category for injuries related to firearms”, according to the paper.

Interestingly, Jefferson county may be in something of a sweet spot when it comes to safety, the Times reports:

According to maps provided by the study, Jefferson County falls right in the middle of the urban-rural continuum, right in the middle of the population density continuum, and on the low side of the death rates continuum.

Succinctly put, the county is like the third option in the Goldilocks story — “just right” — with fewer deaths from injury than most rural areas of the United States.

Aw, Goldilocks…But bears aside (I guess they could also be a cause of injury or death but they don’t come into this story), why is this happening? As we know, Jefferson County is growing, but it’s long been considered a rural area. So what special qualities does this give it? It’s really not clear. It’ll be interesting to see more on this when the study’s published.

In a related story, the WDT is also reporting that Jefferson County legislators are getting their first look at a plan that will see $15 million invested in an overhaul of the county’s public safety communications systems. The current system is possibly as old as me (it dates to the 1970s), and is “full of problems,” according to the paper.

The system does not have the capacity or the power to accommodate the demands placed on it by the county’s emergency response personnel, who have to be able to communicate across several agencies to coordinate efforts in the event of a natural disaster, [Jefferson County Director of Fire and Emergency Management Joseph D. Plummer] said.

The proposed new system will “push communications to a more portable environment,” with vehicle-based communications moving to handheld. Costs will involve buying the ultra-high frequencies these systems use, and building antenna towers, as well as buying the land they’ll be built on. The plan, about which there is much more detail in the paper, would be implemented over about three years.


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