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EMS Week May 16–22

By Staff | May 18, 2010

All too often, when people need help in a time of crisis, those who answer the call are often forgotten in the heat of the moment. Who are those people? Who are the men and women who leave their jobs, their homes, their families, at all hours of the day or night, to come to your aid when you call for medical assistance? They are your neighbors, your friends – Emergency Medical Service volunteers.

This week of May 16-20 is recognized as EMS Week, and this year’s theme of “Anytime, Anywhere, We’ll Be There” focuses on the commitment and dedication of EMS providers who provide an essential community service.

Palo Alto County’s residents are served through the dedicated of 81 volunteers and 3 full time Paramedics that comprise the Palo Alto County Ambulance Service. These individuals respond with ambulance units based in Graettinger, Ruthven, West Bend and Emmetsburg and First Responder units in Mallard and Ayrshire. These volunteers respond to over 700 calls and devote over 65.000 hours of on-call time each year to ensure emergency medical services are available at a moment’s notice.

The Emergency Medical Services in Palo Alto County operate under five levels of certification. Emergency Vehicle Operators (EVO) are trained in emergency driving responses, tactics, techniques and maintenance of their vehicles. First Responders (FR) are trained how to provide initial medical assistance and how to complete procedures needed to stabilize a patient while waiting for the arrival of an ambulance unit.

Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s) fall into three categories. The EMT-B (Basic) is trained in all phases of basic life support with more extensive training in patient care and stabilization, which includes administration of certain medications. The EMT-I (Intermediate) is trained at the same level as the EMT-B but with added emphasis on airway management and intravenous therapy. The EMT-P/PS (Paramedic/Paramedic Specialist) is able to provide Advanced Life Support measures including electrical therapy and medication administration in the pre-hospital environment.

Palo Alto County operates with a simultaneous dispatch system. Once a request has been made for an ambulance to the Palo Alto County Communication Center, the nearest First Responder or Ambulance service is dispatched to the scene, as well as the advanced care unit from the Palo Alto County Hospital. The first emergency medical providers arrive on scene and assess the situation. If it is determined the advanced care ambulance is not needed the unit will return to the hospital. However, if it is determined that the patient needs advanced treatment, this information is conveyed to the paramedic unit, which comes to the scene or can meet the first unit while enroute to the hospital. Upon their arrival, the advanced care personnel join the team already providing care. This allows for needed advanced procedures to be initiated, vital treatment that would otherwise be delayed until reaching the emergency department.

Responding to emergency calls is only a small part of the role these dedicated volunteers play. Being prepared to respond and treat patients appropriately requires the volunteers to attend continuing education classes, as well as maintaining their skills and working with other emergency response agencies. EMS volunteers work hand in hand with area fire departments, law enforcement agencies and emergency management officials as part of the team that provides emergency services.

Local volunteers are also committed to public education each year by training over 400 individuals in CPR and First Aid, as well as running Teddy Bear Clinics, Bicycle rodeos and car seat programs to educate and protect our littlest patients. These volunteers also stand by at local sporting events and community gatherings as part of their involvement in the communities they have chosen to serve.

But most importantly, the Palo Alto County Ambulance Service proudly strives to meet the needs of the community and county by ensuring when assistance is needed there will be dedicated, well trained individuals to respond, anywhere, anytime.

 Please take a moment to recognize the dedicated individuals who respond in your time of need.