Emergency volunteer agencies have proudly served Campbell County as communities’ lifelines in times of crisis for over 50 years. However, as emergency response needs continue to rise, volunteer agencies and the Department of Public Safety have adapted in tandem to ensure local residents receive the quality care they have counted on for decades.
One such change is the collaboration between the Campbell County Rescue Squad and the Campbell County Department of Public Safety to share a facility in the Timbrook community. Following public conversations in 2016 on an additional EMS unit needed for the Timberlake and Sunburst areas, the Campbell County Rescue Squad, located on Rainbow Forest Drive, opened its doors to share operating space with Public Safety’s EMS career providers toward meeting the ever-increasing call volume and reducing response times in those areas of the county.
Since December 2016, Campbell County EMS career staff members have served alongside Campbell County Rescue Squad volunteers in a mutual commitment to residents’ health and safety and in a spirit of collective learning and training. Beyond decreasing wait time for ambulance arrival, this cooperative effort also resulted in a cost savings of $83,267 that would have otherwise been applied toward constructing EMS living and operating quarters proposed for the new Timbrook Library basement.
Frank Rogers, Campbell County administrator, attributes much of the partnership’s success to Campbell County Rescue’s leadership and service vision.
Rogers said, “The men and women of the Campbell County Rescue Squad, under the leadership of Steve Coleman, have admirably demonstrated what it means to truly put citizens first, I commend and thank him and his crew for their hospitality and their willingness to embark on this joint effort with us. Thanks to this crew’s openness, we can collectively provide our residents with even quicker EMS response.”
Campbell County Board of Supervisors Chairman and Timberlake representative Mike Rousseau visited the Campbell County Rescue Squad facility in March and recognizes the value this partnership brings the Timberlake community.
Rousseau said, “As the representative for the Timberlake district and having served on the Public Safety Committee, I understand the gravity of our county’s need for EMS response. Our citizens benefit tremendously from the collaboration and good work happening here.”
Over the past two years, local volunteer EMS squads in Brookneal and Rustburg also navigated changing service trends by opting to cease operations. However, their dedication and support to their communities has not waivered. As a collaborative measure, both Brookneal and Rustburg crews worked with Campbell County leaders to transfer equipment, resources, and facilities to the county so that EMS response to citizens would seamlessly continue through Public Safety’s career providers. Today, through the joint efforts of these volunteer agencies and county staff, 24/7 EMS crews are now more conveniently located in the southern and central areas of the locality and are equipped to respond to residents’ urgent medical needs.
Paula Hunt, the president of Rustburg Rescue Squad, said, “The decision for Rustburg Rescue Squad to cease operations as a volunteer squad was not an easy one to make. When we looked at the number of calls in the county and the needs of the citizens, it was easy to see that it was impossible for the volunteers to provide services to cover the needs. That was what ultimately led us in the direction we went. We gave all our assets to Campbell County Public Safety and the volunteers that wanted to continue to serve are now volunteers for Public Safety. It is a win-win for our citizens, Public Safety, and volunteers.”
Like many localities around the nation, Campbell County faces rising emergency response needs while seeking long-term resources to fund lifesaving services. Public Safety data indicates a 7.7 percent increase in 911 call volume since 2012.
In the midst of these changes, volunteers remain an integral part of the conversation as they strive to fundraise and recruit toward supporting their role in the locality’s blended emergency response system. Both volunteer EMS and fire services receive subsidies from local government. The Campbell County Board of Supervisors has slated support for emergency response as a priority in their fiscal year 2018 budget planning and is working toward identifying and allocating the needed funding to sufficiently staff public safety now and in the years ahead.
Rogers said, “Balancing a yearly budget while forecasting future needs is never easy, but the Board is committed to keeping our residents safe and emergency resources available. Emergency response will remain one of the primary topics of conversation as we enter another budget season and will likely be a part of our budget planning discussions for years to come.”
Simultaneously, volunteer agencies have seen a decrease in membership as life and work demands along with strenuous certification requirements narrow the number of individuals who have the time to dedicate to the rigorous hours and training schedules. However, longtime responders and new recruits both share a passion to serve that outweighs these challenges.
Dick Porter, who joined the Campbell County Rescue Squad in 1964, remembers his first volunteer EMS experience.
“As a young guy, I was interested in driving the squad, but they asked me to train in the back of the ambulance. During that first call out, I remember thinking, ‘wow, I can really make a difference doing this.”
Campbell County Rescue Squad Capt. Steve Coleman believes continued cooperation between localities and volunteer agencies is what is needed to fill the gap brought on by decreasing volunteer numbers.
He said, “I’ve served in this rescue squad for 53 years. We’re very proud of the service we’ve given to Campbell County residents and of what we’ve accomplished. We’ve had our ups and downs, but I believe we have one of the best working relationships with our locality as any in the state of Virginia.”
Across Campbell County, 84 EMS volunteers, in cooperation with Public Safety career EMS staff, meet upwards of 10,500 calls per year. Campbell County Department of Public Safety’s 32 EMS career staff members provide four around-the-clock crews and one daytime crew in addition to the existing volunteer framework.
Coleman wants to remind residents to certainly use, but not abuse the EMS system.
He said, “We’re always here to assist anyone who calls for help, but we remind folks to only call for true emergencies. For non-emergency transports, that’s where friends, neighbors, and churches can certainly help. That frees our teams to answer life-threatening calls.”
The Campbell County Department of Public Safety welcomes additional collaborations with volunteer groups.
Public Safety Director Tracy Fairchild said, “When it comes to emergency response, we’re all called to the same purpose, regardless of whether we’re serving as a volunteer or staff member. Our aim is to cooperatively provide the best response and care possible whenever we get that 911 call. That’s what our local families, neighbors, and visitors deserve. I could not be prouder of the men and women who volunteer and work in emergency services in Campbell County. It’s an honor to serve with each one of them.”
Those wishing to serve as an EMS provider or volunteer are always welcome to contact the Department of Public Safety or their local rescue squad headquarters to learn more about becoming a responder.
Rousseau said, “Volunteer spirit built this county’s EMS network, and while volunteer numbers may have diminished over the years, they still remain a vital part of our emergency services. If anyone feels called to serve as a volunteer, please consider signing up. You can make a great difference in your community.”
More information about volunteer opportunities can be found on the Campbell County website at http://www.campbellcountyva.gov/257/Volunteer-Opportunities.
Campbell County Department of Public Safety
Campbell County Rescue Squad