EMS Magazine proudly presents the winners of its 12th annual Gold Award competition-one volunteer service and one paid. As part of this award, a representative from each winning agency will be EMS Magazine's guest at the EMS EXPO in Las Vegas, NV, September 25-29, where they will be recognized at a special award ceremony prior to the opening keynote presentation on September 27. In addition to an engraved trophy and gifts from EMS, each service will receive thousands of dollars in discounts and prizes from the contest's many corporate sponsors. For more information on the prizes, turn to page 123.
North Adams Ambulance Service, Inc., North Adams, MA
North Adams Ambulance Service (NAAS) may not be the largest EMS provider in the country, but providing coverage for five towns, including nearby Stanford, VT, 3,700 calls a year and mutual aid to other services in the area keeps them plenty busy. And, in addition to their normal duties, NAAS teaches CPR and first aid classes to the public and is in the process of making North Adams a "HeartSafe" community. This year, in addition to winning the EMS Gold Award for a paid service, NAAS was named 2006 Berkshire County EMS Agency of the Year. All of this, says John Meaney, Jr., NAAS's lead instructor coordinator, proves the agency is an EMS leader in western Massachusetts.
In 2004, NAAS faced a major challenge when the state announced that, beginning in 2005, only accredited training institutions would be allowed to teach EMS classes.
"Prior to this, as long as the instructor coordinator was certified, he/she could sponsor a class pretty much anywhere," says Meaney. "They could go to a local fire department or ambulance company and train EMTs there. With the state's new requirement, you had to be a higher-education facility, like a college or high school, or you had to meet a lengthy requirement. We had to develop a whole new program and curriculum and implement new policies and procedures in order to become accredited. So we went through the grueling process, which took about a year, and we got it. I went to school to become an IC, and we went from there. We're the only company in Berkshire County right now that is accredited to teach EMTs, and that's a big plus for us."
Meaney is the lead instructor for the training program, which is currently only offering classes at the Basic level. He is assisted by NAAS general manager Michael Gleason, EMT-P; office manager and EMT Paige Gleason; and EMTs Michael Tessier, Lynn Richardson, Rob Luckritz and Robert Dobbert. The NAAS program exceeds state requirements, says Meaney. State requirements permit an instruction range of 110-150 hours; NAAS requires 140 hours of instruction, plus mandatory ambulance ride-along time and some mandatory observation time at the North Adams Regional Hospital ED.
In spite of its success, however, NAAS struggles with retention like everyone else. Money, Meaney says, is the biggest issue.
"Unfortunately, services are unable to pay what they'd like to, and people are either working several jobs for different services, or they just aren't able to stay in the business.
"We're actually participating in a rural EMS recruitment and retention summit sponsored by our region," he adds. "It will be a day when we can get together and throw out ideas and see how others are dealing with this issue. We have people coming from OEMS in Boston, as well as representatives from New Hampshire and Vermont."
The community is very supportive of North Adams Ambulance, says Meaney, and things are looking up. "We've only done three training classes and have already hired three new employees from the last class. We have another class starting in September, and we hope it will bring some new blood into Berkshire County EMS."