r By Ken Wright
Your neighbor may knock on your door for many reasons: a cup of sugar; because your dog has, once again left a little something on his lawn; or to return your kid’s baseball that went into his backyard. But if you call 911 for a medical emergency in most of South Utah County, there’s a high likelihood it will be one of your neighbors coming to the rescue.
Utah County, and particularly the south county area, has a history of volunteer Emergency Medical Service (EMS) dating back to the late 1980’s. The cities of Springville and Spanish Fork have seen sufficient growth in population and tax base to support some level of either full-time or part-time EMS personnel who actually wait at a station for calls with volunteers or paid-call augmenting service in the evening or in instances of excessive call demand.
Cities like Salem, Woodland Hills, Elk Ridge, Payson and Santaquin still rely solely on neighbors helping neighbors for free- or darn close to it. EMS volunteers make a potentially life-saving difference where city budgets cannot support full-time EMS coverage. A single, 24/7 ambulance requires about six personnel for full-time coverage at a cost of about half a million dollars per year.
“Part-time” and “volunteer” doesn’t mean less professional. Some who serve as volunteers or part-timers in their own communities are full-time EMS personnel, some up to the paramedic level, at “big city” agencies. Additionally, all personnel (volunteer or full time) have to pass the same initial training, national certification, and state licensure. They are also required to complete regular training to maintain certification and licensure.
Some agencies cover the cost of initial training and certification, either through up-front payment or reimbursement, and all either provide or pay for the required on-going training. Initial output for the equipment, books, and instruction for an EMT-Basic course is about $1,200.
Your local volunteers may be tradesmen, stay-at-home moms, retirees, or a variety of other professionals in their “real lives”, but they are all about the response when they are on call.
Agencies fielding volunteer responders generally require a minimum response time to the station to be ready to roll in the ambulance. Salem, for instance, requires a responder be no more than four minutes from the station when on call. Woodland Hills volunteers are on the pager 24/7, but respond only if available.
All agencies work in a system of mutual cooperation. Spanish Fork or Payson may roll into Salem if the Salem ambulance is tied up and vice versa. Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge, which do not yet have the personnel and licensure to staff an ambulance, rely on Salem and Payson for transport after their own personnel have arrived and begun initial care.
There is great cooperation and comradery among all teams.
For information regarding how you can get involved, either actively or by other support, see your city’s web page for additional information.