2017 Outstanding EMS Agency

Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad

In a community in which you are instantly greeted with a friendly smile and caring spirit, our volunteers personify such a compassionate and devoted nature, and constantly make sacrifices to help those in need; the sole of our agency. More than 283,000 hours were recorded in 2016 from our membership’s devotion to the squad; answering calls, training, fundraising and other community events.

Averaging 250 calls annually, our call volume is comparably low to our urban neighbors, yet our extended hours spent on each call makes them dramatically equivalent in time. As tones drop, responding members commit and average of 5 hours dedicated to that single 911 emergency. An average transport time to the nearest facility, Augusta Health, is an expected 55 miles for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes from Monterey. Our missed call rate is currently less than 1% and has maintained that rate for the past 3 years and has dramatically improved from 20% prior to 2014.

Due to the extended transport times, HCVRS providers spend an average of 75% more time than the national average with our patients. This prolonged patient contact emphasizes the need and importance of provider skill, experience and comfort providing patient care. Our call volume for patient transports is over 70% ALS.

Highland County VRS has not allowed the remoteness of their location to hinder their ability to stay current with education, training, updating policies and is always trying to keep the agency ahead of regulations. Our EMS Coordinator, Chris Vernovai’s many affiliations with CSEMS, OEMS and outside EMS organizations and agencies keeps the agency informed and prepared for new advances and updates.

As with most volunteer agencies, recruitment and retention are high on HCVRS’s priority list. It can be a challenge with an extremely limited pool of resources to pull from. Highland County has just 2,200 residents, with a median age of 59 years old, a school system with a total of 214 students from K-12.  The agency is proud to have 30 Active members which include 18 EMTs, 1 Advanced EMT, 4 Intermediates, 2 Paramedics, 5 EVOC certified members and 3 Junior Members with a prospective future Administrative membership.

With the assistance of CSEMS, the agency hosted an EMT Course in Highland County in 2015-2016. The course was incredibly successful in gaining interest and community support.  The squad was able to registered 12 students, all of which successfully completed the course and 10 are currently NR-EMT Certified, with hopes that the remaining 2 will also be with time.

Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad offers multiple forms of incentive programs for our active members. The incentive points program allows members to earn points for agency activity that can be utilized at the end of the year for reimbursement. They offer free gym memberships promoting health and fitness as well as complete funding for all approved EMS courses including EMS Symposium.

Attending such events as the EMS Symposium, HCVRS almost always receives the same gasp and look of amazement from other EMS agencies when members describe their location and explain patient transport times. Many say that they wouldn’t be able to commit that amount of time to a volunteer agency and many fear the extended patient care time.

While members of the agency have accepted it as just a “way of life in Highland County”, it does deserve acknowledgement.

Award Background:

An award given to an EMS agency that exemplifies outstanding professionalism and service to its community; whose high level of patient care is evident by innovative training, community awareness, preventive health programs, public relations efforts and participation in local, regional and statewide EMS systems.