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The week of May 17th is the 46th annual National Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Week. EMS Week brings together local communities and medical personnel to honor the dedication of those who provide the day-to-day lifesaving services of medicine's ‘front line’.

In 1974, President Gerald Ford authorized EMS Week to celebrate EMS practitioners and the important work they do in the nation's communities. McDowell County EMS began its operation on July 1, 1977 with a total of 16 employees and five employees working each shift. In the early days of the organization, the crew quarters were located in the County Administration Building.

McDowell EMS paramedics remain on the cutting edge of emergency medicine with access to state-of-the-art medical equipment, medical protocols that exceed national standards in emergency medicine, and training programs that provide excellent opportunities for professional development. McDowell EMS is committed to being an active player within the community promoting injury prevention programs and public awareness on a variety of health-related topics.

Employees work 24-hour shifts, meaning they live in the station for an entire day. Ambulances carry numerous medical supplies including IV solutions, medications, and invasive medical equipment, all of which must be secured and maintained at adequate temperatures.

McDowell EMS is responsible for providing emergency medical care to all citizens and visitors of McDowell County. McDowell County EMS covers 437 square miles with elevation ranges from 900 ft to 4,700 ft. Over 68,000 acres of land within McDowell County is National Forest. McDowell EMS operates four ambulances and one quick response vehicle 24 hours a day. Within the system, six quick response vehicles are operated by the director, deputy directors, EMS Shift Supervisor and Community Care Paramedics. The McDowell County Rescue Squad serves as the backup provider for McDowell County EMS.

“McDowell County EMS has a long tradition of being a leader in rural prehospital emergency care,” stated McDowell County Emergency Services Director William Kehler. “Our ability to provide quality and compassionate care is a direct result of the commitment and dedication from EMS employees, first responders, and other partner agencies across McDowell County. I am extremely proud of the team effort that is displayed daily to ensure we meet the individual needs of every patient we serve.”

McDowell EMS employees have worked 9 years without a lost time incident. The culture of safety change began in 2010 with the agency changing over 23 different operational procedures and implementing new training and physical fitness requirements for employees. The agency's safety record has gained state and national attention. Creating new initiatives and innovative programs remains a top priority for the agency.

Deputy Director Adrienne Rivera Jones reflected on the work that has been done this year, “Every year I look forward to celebrating the incredible work that our paramedics at McDowell EMS are doing. EMS is so much more than simply responding to emergencies. These women and men go the extra mile to care for their patients. I have witnessed our medics come together to complete a concrete driveway for a patient that experienced a medical emergency, so that their project wouldn’t be ruined. I see them purchasing meals or even coming together to help a patient repair their vehicle. Everyday, I see the small gestures that go far in making our patients feel cared for beyond their emergency. McDowell County Paramedics have heart, and that is what sets them apart.”

For more information on McDowell EMS, follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or visit www.mcdowellem.com.

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