As Columbus and Franklin County officials worked out the kinks of how to properly police and respond to emergencies at the new Hollywood Casino, the city's Fire Division decided to call a friend.
"I thought of Chris Haydocy, because he has been very much out there promoting the casino and the West Side," Assistant Fire Chief Karry Ellis said. "We had no idea what the crowds would be like, so we thought putting a medic out there might be a good idea."
Haydocy said he "didn't think twice about saying yes."
The public/private partnership seems to be paying off.
An emergency medical vehicle and firefighters to staff it were installed at the Haydocy Buick GMC dealership at 3895 W. Broad St., next to the casino on Georgesville Road.
Last Monday, firefighters responded to eight calls at the casino on its opening day. Five people were taken to hospitals for a range of ailments, from chest pains to shortness of breath.
The response time in each case was about a minute. Two city fire stations are each about 3 miles away, but being so close to a place with so many people better protects the public, Ellis said.
The Fire Division is treating the casino "kind of like an Ohio State football game, (where) we have seven medics for 100,000 people, and here we have one for about 20,000," he said. "This helps us to be in position to better service them."
Fire officials said the plan is to keep a medic stationed at Haydocy on the weekends to deal with the larger crowds and to assess how many runs are made and when.
Firefighters Gary Childers and Cliff Foster were at the dealership from 2 p.m. Saturday through 2 a.m. yesterday. They responded to one emergency at a nearby business.
"I'd rather us be here and nothing happen than us not be here and something happens," Foster said.
Haydocy said the Fire Division can stay as long as officials see a need. He has issued a similar invitation to the sheriff's office and to Columbus police, who said they have no plans to put a unit there.
The dealership has cleared a bay for the ambulance and offered the firefighters an area to take breaks and have access to a restroom.
"He even offered us a key (for after-hours access) so the guys could use the restroom and stuff," Ellis said. "He was more than willing to do anything to help out."
Haydocy said having a medic at his dealership shows the community and the casino's customers that Columbus is working to protect the public.
"I know throughout the process of building the casino there was a lot of concern about crime and safety," he said.
"That was a very compelling reason for me to have a medic stationed here because there is a constant flow of people and it shows people we are concerned about their well-being."