Region 8 volunteer ambulance service thrives

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

CARAWAY, AR (KAIT) - For the past 30 years the town of  Caraway has had a volunteer ambulance service.

Lynn Haag taught the first class of 7 EMT's. And helped get the wheels rolling.

"We began with a donated van, and only three runs were anticipated during the first year." says Haag, "We were surprised with 82, way more than was expected,"

Initially $20-per-family memberships were sold for people to get service, but now, the organization relies on one fundraiser a year and what grants they can find.

Currently there are 8 EMT's and 5 drivers. Just days ago their newest ambulance went into service.

Scott Browning has been involved with the ambulance since 1999, he started as a driver and now is an EMT. He sat on the rear bumper of the new ambulance and we talked about it's acquisition.

Browning, "We just received this through a FEMA Grant. It's a 2010 GMC. The ambulance that we just replaced we've had for about 10 years and that's about the life of an ambulance for us."

In the beginning they were allowed to raid St. Bernards for supplies. How do they pay for supplies and fuel now? Do they charge the patients?

Shaking his head Browning replied, "It doesn't matter what we do, how bad you are. It doesn't matter how far we go we don't charge anything."

An annual ambulance auction is their primary source of income.

Browning, "We get area businesses to donate to us, we auction those off. Sometimes we'll do Boston Butt sales and of course we have several families that will donate to us throughout the year." This year the auction brought in a little over 9 Thousand dollars.

Browning, "High prices of diesel that everybody knows about. That's what helps us restock our first aid equipment. Just day to day operations."

Like what plagues any volunteer emergency service there is always a shortage of personnel during the weekday.

Browning, "We're hoping to step up in force on EMT's pretty soon and get some new fresh EMT's that want to help us." They have a couple of Paramedics and some nurses including Browning on the service. Primarily the majority of their runs are medical versus trauma.

Browning, "And I would say out of 200 runs we probably actually transport probably a 100 to 125 to the hospital. We don't use a paramedic truck they just need basic first aid." They do have a rescue truck equipped with the Jaws of Life. The old ambulance will soon be converted over to the primary rescue vehicle.

Browning says if a patient is in need of a paramedic, they will stabilize in place and wait for a paramedic rig or helicopter.

For 30 years, volunteers have stepped up to answer the call. Even when the job may not be pleasant. I asked Browning why he and the others do it.

"This is my hometown, not to mention the gratification you get for helping another person. I think we all have that inside us to want to help when there's a need. And that's why I do it."

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.