Sterling Volunteer Rescue Squad, Sterling, VA
In people years, the Sterling Volunteer Rescue Squad would only be considered middle-aged, but in EMS, it's one of the old-timers. Formed in 1964, this totally volunteer organization is staffed by 140 members, more than half of whom are ALS-certified providers. Located in northern Virginia, just outside Washington, DC, the squad maintains two stations, with plans for a third in a county that is among the fastest growing in the country.
Sterling Rescue responded to 7,000 calls in 2005 in an area with a population of 80,000. The squad provides mutual aid to nearby Dulles Airport and Fairfax County (VA), and provides BLS and ALS care, technical and water rescue and a bike team. In 1974, members implemented a county-wide CPR Pyramid program for instructor trainers, instructors and county citizens. Sterling still maintains an active public education program, including CPR courses for the community.
In 2004, Sterling purchased two AEDs for every high school in the county. This motivated the county school superintendent to purchase and place AEDs in every elementary and middle school.
Sterling Rescue has nine chaplains, who provide assistance to grieving families and provide counseling for squad members. Sterling's NOVA TF-8 is one of Virginia's disaster task forces and has mobilized for high-profile responses like: all presidential inaugurations since 1972; Nelson County floods in 1969; Hurricane Agnes flooding in 1972; a TWA crash in 1974 and an Air Florida crash in the DC area in 1982; the Pentagon terrorist attack in 2001; and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In 1999, the squad received the Virginia Governor's Award for Outstanding EMS Agency, and it was the first recipient of the Northern Virginia EMS Council's Best EMS Agency award in 2004.
Although Sterling Rescue has its share of problems, retention is not one of them.
"We're actually pretty successful at retaining volunteers," says Chief Byron Andrews. "Part of it, I guess, is the way the organization is structured. Members only run one night a week, so they know that every Monday night, for example, that's what they'll be doing. We always need members, and our members come and go, but we have some with five, 10 or 15 years with the service. We're known in the area to be very professional, and that's attractive. We've also been working with the local community college, where we provide precepting time and ride-along time for students as a way for them to get experience."
One major problem that Sterling does have, says Andrews, is that its budget was just cut by 40%.
"That hit us pretty hard," he says. "Part of the problem was that everyone's assessments were so high, the county had to cut the tax rate, and EMS was one of those affected because we're one of the largest agencies. We still get money from private donations, and we get about $200,000 a year from a mass mailing to the community.
"All of our members are very dedicated individuals, who take pride in what they do," Andrews adds, "and this Gold Award reflects the success of each and every one of them and their contributions not only to the community, but to the EMS system as a whole."
In other EMS News
$10 Million Deal On Claims Of Underpayment
A $10 million settlement for underpaying hundreds of Pennsylvania ambulance services may represent a legal precedent that could benefit others in similar situations, the Pittsburgh Business Times reported.
Major health insurer Highmark agreed to pay that amount to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging it underpaid around 300 services in western Pennsylvania between 1997-2002. The amount is believed to be a record for the ambulance industry.
The settlement will be divided among the services based on their call volumes. Pittsburgh's Bureau of EMS will receive $400,000.
The dispute centered around the rate Highmark paid for transports of members having its Medicare HMO coverage. That rate was approved by Medicare, but was less than what was billed by the ambulance providers. The providers claimed they should be repaid the full amount for the care provided, rather than the lower rate set by Medicare. The difference averaged $400 per bill.-Pittsburgh Business Times