Volunteers needed for emergency medical response

Thursday, November 7, 2019

By Mike FitzPatrick

Today there are four medical professionals on duty at Eureka Springs ambulance depot. Tomorrow, four others will take over for their 24 hour shift and the next day, the third group arrives for its spell of duty. The medical well-being of all residents of Carroll County, west of the Kings River are in their hands. Whether Grandma has fallen in the shower near Inspiration Point, or Rover has bitten the neighbor in Buck Mountain, or a gruesome car wreck has blocked the highway at Bluebird Hill, the duty crew will be on-scene just as fast as safely possible.

The medical profession has a term for serious field emergencies, known as the chain of survival and the first link in that chain is “Early Intervention.” While the ambulance crew with its skills and equipment is navigating the hills of our beautiful Ozarks, the first link in the chain is with the patient, providing basic life support. Currently there are 48 emergency medical responders, (EMRs), in western Carroll County who are trained and equipped to provide that service.

So who are these people who arrive before the ambulance, with life-saving skills and equipment?

They are your neighbors. They work in the hotels, restaurants, farms, stores, schools, businesses, clinics and service facilities that you drive by every day. Or they are retired and able to contribute time and talent to the community. They are men and women of all ages and all backgrounds. Bob Clave, chief of the Holiday Island Fire Department, is a firm believer in self-reliance. “Forget the government,” he says. “If we don’t take care of our neighbors during an emergency, nobody will.”

Each EMR carries a radio tuned to Central Dispatch and they hear the emergency tone calling for response. If the incident is nearby, they travel immediately to the scene and transmit to the incoming ambulance their first appraisal of the situation. They may see the need for additional help, because Grandma is unconscious, bleeding from a head wound and needs helicopter transport, or that Billy Bob’s dog bite is only minor so the ambulance can slow down and cancel its lights and sirens. They stabilize the patient, provide essential life support and prevent the situation from getting any worse.

With their training and kit of monitoring gear, oxygen, suction equipment, splints, dressings and bandages they provide critical first response. The Automated External Defibrillator is an expensive item that can save a life if used within minutes of cardiac arrest. The EMR volunteers carry the AED as part of their equipment wherever they go, and will be first on scene at Spider Creek, Hogscald or Trigger Gap!


Emergency medical technicians attend local training classes, taught by qualified instructors, then take written and practical exams set by local and national certification boards. They must stay current with CPR skills and must re-certify every two years. Emergency medical responders are also trained and tested locally and are required to stay current with their skills by attending periodic classes. Traffic directors require less training but their contribution at highway accidents and by marking access to remote rural incidents can be critical.

Who can volunteer?

Lynn Palmer, from Grassy Knob, heads the Western Carroll County Ambulance District Alliance which coordinates the work of the emergency medical responders.

“There are never too many responders at an incident,” she said.

“More capable people with better skills are always needed. The district is constantly recruiting and training.”

The next EMT training class is scheduled for January 2020 and it is free to Carroll County residents. The classes are online but with practicals and mentoring at the Eureka Springs Fire Station. Contact the Eureka Springs Fire Department at 479-253-9616 for more information or to register.

Any resident of the Western District who is physically able and mentally suited to help with emergency situations can apply to attend a training program. They apply to join one of the Volunteer Fire Departments in the district so as to become an emergency medical responder or emergency medical technician where they are provided with their equipment. Most fire departments have monthly meetings to review performance, plan for the future and provide ongoing training.

For the EMR and EMT, there can be messy and distressing situations that will challenge everyone who is involved. Gunshot wounds, drownings, injured children and death are a reality that these responders may have to face. But there are the happy events that offset the sad, like a safe childbirth, a recovered choking victim or a rescue when nobody got hurt. It’s all part of rural life.

The best approach for an interested local resident is to visit any local fire department or phone them on their non-emergency number. Ask to talk about emergency medical responders. That first call might result in you saving the life of a family member or a neighbor, which would be neat! You won’t get that chance in a big city, but in rural Carroll County that’s how it works.

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