Health Break | Published May 16, 2005 | Written by Rich A. Kelley, NREMT-P

Emergency Medical Services Are There In Times Of Need

National Emergency Medical Services Week runs from Sunday, May 15 through Saturday, May 21. This week is designated to recognizing the men and women who provide Emergency Medical Services, commonly referred to as EMS.

Do you know who your local EMS providers are? Do you know where they are located? Do you know the difference between an emergency medical technician (EMT) and a paramedic? If you call 911 for a medical emergency, who will show up at your door?

EMS in Centre County is provided by our local hospital, ambulance services and a few fire departments. These services are provided to Centre County using a three-tiered system, depending on where the emergency is and the level of care needed. The system uses a combination of quick response services (QRS), Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulances, and paramedic or advanced life support (ALS) squads and ambulances.

You should become familiar with who the service providers are in your area. Some of your Centre County emergency medical service providers are Bellefonte E.M.S., Centre LifeLink E.M.S., Mount Nittany Medical Center-Medic 24, Moshannon Valley E.M.S., Penns Valley E.M.S., Howard Fire Company QRS, Pleasant Gap Fire Company Ambulance Service, Port Matilda E.M.S, Mountaintop Ambulance Service, Snow Shoe E.M.S. and University Ambulance Service.

Support Your EMS Providers
Your local EMS is an invaluable resource and is always in need of strong community support. Support can be given through volunteering time as a wheelchair van driver, first responder or EMT. Or you can volunteer your time performing administrative, clerical or bookkeeping duties, or serving on the board of directors. Some services are in need a handyman/woman to help with minor building maintenance or vehicle maintenance.

Financial contributions are, of course, always a great way to support your local service. The provision of EMS is expensive, especially if your local service has to employ personnel to ensure their response. Strongly consider purchasing an ambulance subscription from your local provider on a yearly basis. The money collected is heavily relied upon to support the purchase of capital equipment and the daily operating expenses.

Recruitment Is Needed
Currently, EMS is in a statewide crisis in regard to experiencing a shortage of EMTs (both paid and volunteer) and paramedics. There are many reasons why this shortage has come about and, unfortunately, there is no quick fix. The Pennsylvania Department of Health plans to launch a massive effort this year to recruit personnel to become EMTs and paramedics.

If you would like to become a first responder or an EMT, go to the Seven Mountains EMS Council Web site at to learn more. Or call (814) 355-1474 for more information.

If you are interested in becoming a paramedic, there are several schools in Pennsylvania that you can choose from. There is the Conemaugh School of EMS in Johnstown, Harrisburg Area Community College and Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport.

If you aren’t sure whether any of these jobs interest you, contact your local service to inquire about a ride-along program. Most services will allow community members to ride along as an observer for a day to see if it is something you would be interested in doing before making a commitment to the training.

Stop and think for a minute. If you dialed 911 right now, would someone be able to respond to your emergency? Fortunately, in Centre County, we know the answer to that question is, “Yes.” Do what you can to help make sure that there will always be someone trained and ready to respond to your emergency. Support your local service today and into the future.

And during National EMS Week, consider stopping by your local service to just say, “Thanks.”

Rich Kelley is the paramedic coordinator at Mount Nittany Medical Center.