Impact Volunteer Service of the Year: Friendswood (TX) Volunteer Fire Department EMS

Founded in 1972, Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department Emergency Medical Service has, from its beginning, been a true community enterprise


The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) and EMS World, in conjunction with the National EMS Management Association (NEMSMA) and the National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE), established the National EMS Awards of Excellence program to recognize outstanding achievement in the EMS profession.

The 2012 awards will be presented on Tuesday, October 30, at the NAEMT Annual Meeting in New Orleans, held in conjunction with EMS World Expo 2012, and at the EMS World Expo Opening Keynote on October 31.

We would like to thank the following sponsors of this year’s awards: NAEMT Paramedic of the Year Award sponsored by Nasco; NAEMT EMT of the Year Award sponsored by Braun Industries; Dick Ferneau Paid EMS Service of the Year sponsored by Ferno; Impact Volunteer EMS Service of the Year sponsored by Impact Instrumentation, Inc.; and NEMSMA Executive of the Year sponsored by EMS World.

Award recipients receive a $1,000 award stipend, a three-day core program registration to EMS World Expo, plus $1,000 for travel and lodging to attend EMS World Expo and the NAEMT Annual Meeting.

The nomination period for next year’s awards will open in February 2013. Visit EMSWorld.com/awards.

Founded in 1972, Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department Emergency Medical Service has, from its beginning, been a true community enterprise.

Local “Father of EMS” Van Williams convinced the city council an ambulance was needed and a used Ford Fairlane station wagon was purchased and outfitted to take over transport calls from the local funeral home. In 1974, with trained EMT volunteers working shifts on evenings and weekends, the ambulance was sitting idle by day. So the women of Friendswood—mainly the wives of volunteer firefighters—went to school, got trained and took over the day shift until the husbands came back from work in the evenings to take over the night shifts, says EMS Chief Lisa Camp.

From there, Camp says, the small service has continued to innovate and stay at the forefront of emergency medicine and, for these reasons, is this year’s recipient of the Impact Volunteer Service of the Year Award sponsored by Impact Instrumentation, Inc.

Friendswood VFD EMS provides service to the city of Friendswood and its approximately 38,000 residents. The service responds to between 2,500–2,600 calls—primarily medical—per year in a 27.5-square-mile service area. Out of about 105 total fire department volunteers, there are 58 volunteer EMS providers, as well as approximately 10–12 paid part-time staff who help cover day shifts while the regular volunteers are at work. Friendswood functions as a mobile intensive care unit (MICU) with BLS capabilities and operates three Chevy C4500 ambulances—one on duty 24 hours per day—made for the service by Frazer, Ltd. in Houston.

Camp credits the high level of community spirit among volunteers for the service’s continued success. “All of the medics believe they’re neighbors helping neighbors, that’s kind of our motto,” she says. “You look at the group of volunteers we have—FBI agents, nurses, educators, licensed paramedics, even one guy with a double master’s degree who builds medical equipment. This unique grouping of people has an interest in EMS, but they do it because they want to help their neighbors. It’s a unique camaraderie that holds us together, because everyone around us is paid or partially paid. We’re kind of an anomaly in the Houston area.”

Friendswood VFD EMS receives the majority of its funding from the city. Camp says an approximately $2 million annual operating budget covers fire, EMS and part-time salaries, with EMS receiving about $800,000 in annual funding. As a 501(c)(3) corporation, the service also receives a fair portion of its funding through donations, though the public funding through the city covers all of the department’s daily operating costs. Since the early 1980s, a bimonthly voluntary $6 donation on city water bills—paid by about 44% of the city’s population—has also enabled the service to cover the cost of replacing all of its rolling stock on its fire and EMS vehicles. Grant funding also helps with larger equipment purchases, such as ventilators and cardiac monitors. And, Camp says, she often works with other area chiefs to determine shared needs and purchase supplies in bulk at a discount.

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