“EMS and Air Evac”
When I started with the Kerrville Fire Department on February 1, 1973, the ambulance service was operated out of one of the local funeral homes, Plummer Fair. The service had very little if any medical training; instead they loaded the patient as fast as they could into the funeral home’s sedan and took them to the hospital. A few years later, private ambulance companies, such as Amcare, handled the service. At midnight of January 1, 1994, the Kerrville Fire Department took over the EMS service from Amcare after winning the lowest bid.
The EMS operation was based in the Kerrville Fire Department and it started with 17 employees. The fire department provided two 24-hour mobile intensive care units (MICU), a transfer unit with the same capabilities, and a backup ambulance. In October of 2001 we budgeted for another transfer unit and later added another backup ambulance. The backup ambulances are to be used when an ambulance is out of commission or all of the other ambulances are on a call.
The main responsibility of a transfer ambulance is to make transfers from our local hospitals to hospitals in San Antonio. The transfer crews are used as a backup for the 24-hour emergency units.
You probably have seen the fire trucks responding with the ambulances to medical calls. We do this when a patient is not breathing, for a heart attack, or multiple injury calls. There are two people on an ambulance and it takes at least two people to work with these types of patients. The fire truck responds to assist with the patient and to let one of the firefighters drive the ambulance. In some cases the fire truck is the first unit on the scene. The fire trucks are Advanced Life Support equipped and the firefighters are all medically trained to stabilize the patient until an ambulance arrives for transport.
The first full year the fire department took over the EMS operation, we made 3,500 EMS calls. In 2006, we made 4,635 runs and treated 4,989 patients. With our EMS operation we cover the 1,100 square miles of Kerr County, which has a population of almost 50,000 people. We do this with the same two 24 hour ambulances we started with in 1994. The Texas Department of Health, now the Department of State Health Services, recognized our EMS operation as the “EMS Public Provider of the Year” for 1996. This award was for the entire State of Texas.
On January 1, 2007, Terri Thompson, manager of Air Evac Lifeteam, the local air ambulance helicopter stationed at Sid Peterson Hospital, informed me that the Kerrville fire department’s EMS operation had received the “Working Together, Saving Lives” award. The program was established by Air Evac Lifeteam, which is a rural provider of air ambulance services. This was a means to recognize EMS agencies that go above and beyond the call of duty to take care of their patients and the communities they serve. The program was designed as a way to pay tribute to the vital role that the EMS personnel play in the lives of patients. It takes the efforts of many, from first responders, law enforcement officers, EMS personnel, emergency department staff and physicians, to provide the level of care the patients we serve need and deserve.
In a letter I received from Mrs. Thompson, she states, “Kerrville Fire/EMS is being recognized for their commitment to their community and the patients they serve. Kerrville Fire/EMS crewmembers, on a daily basis, demonstrate an unwavering dedication to patient care as well as safety, and continually go above and beyond to care for others in need of emergency medical care. They have been very supportive of Air Evac Lifeteam, recognizing the role an air ambulance can play in the lives of our patients. They truly do work alongside our crews to save lives in your community.”
Mrs. Thompson goes on to claim, “The Kerrville Fire/EMS is a service that prides themselves in the excellent quality of care they provide for the citizens and visitors of the City of Kerrville and Kerr County. They are a very progressive EMS service, always researching and staying in step with the newest and latest procedures and techniques that will benefit both medical and trauma patients. The men and women of Kerrville Fire/EMS do an outstanding job in regards to emergency medicine while maintaining the utmost professionalism.”
The City of Kerrville’s Fire/EMS logo will be symbolized on a coin to be distributed to other emergency personnel throughout the Air Evac Lifeteam service area that have received this award. Each of Air Evac Lifeteam’s 68 bases located in eleven states throughout the central United States, will be distributing the coin to key EMS services in the coming months. Kerrville’s Fire/EMS operation was nominated to be recognized along with 65 other EMS agencies and is only the second Texas EMS agency to be chosen for the “Working Together, Saving Lives” recognition.
This award is a great honor for our department and the City of Kerrville. We are proud that outside organizations such as Air Evac has recognized the professionalism and commitment of the Kerrville Fire Department employees, who work hard to be the very best when performing their duties. EMS has progressed a long way since the first days of a funeral home picking up patients to where we are now. What citizens receive when they call for help now is an “emergency room on wheels” with medics trained to take care of almost every situation. The medics are in contact with the emergency room physician and have the ability to better save lives than ever before. With the assistance of Air Evac Lifeteam, we are able to get the more severely injured patients faster to the facilities in San Antonio that provide specialized care. The citizens of Kerrville and Kerr County can be assured that when they call for medical help, they will receive some of the best care in the world from the Kerrville Fire Department and EMS.