Blanco EMS is inviting members of the community to a special volunteer information night on Tuesday, February 26, at the EMS Station, located at 607 Chandler. “You don't have to be a medic to volunteer with EMS,” says director Mike West. He hopes to bring people together at the meeting to explain who EMS is and what they do.
The organization's volunteer needs range far and wide; and those who volunteer their time don't just help Blanco EMS but have a direct effect on the community. West gave an example: drivers.
"I could use a third person sometimes," explains West. "At night, it's a two-person crew. When we have a 300- to 400-pound patient, or even a 150-pound patient that's in a fifth wheel (RV), I need assistance getting them out of there. Or it's a critical call and I need someone to drive because there will be two medics in the back."
Board members are also needed–people who want to be involved with the structure of the organization, overseeing the director, employees, and the finances–to help move the organization forward. Volunteers are even needed to help with an annual fundraiser.
"I could always use volunteer medics because that directly assists with our payroll," West says. Blanco EMS is operated primarily by paid staff with two volunteers who cover probably two shifts per month on average. The goal is to grow the volunteer ranks. For volunteers who are interested in the medical side, the organization will guide them to medical training and assist them through it.
Blanco EMS is the only first responder group in town. "We have one crew on, 24 hours a day," West adds. "When that crew is on a call, assistance comes from Johnson City or Bulverde. We may have a delay of, minimum, 15 minutes. On average it's 20 minutes prior to an ambulance arriving."
Blanco depends on what's known as mutual aid for 10 to 15% of EMS calls. Trained medical volunteers could form a second EMS crew.
"We're looking to volunteers to expand the organization," West continues, "to lead some community initiatives, and to better our service. The more volunteers that come in ultimately help keep the taxes low and helps us to still grow. We're at the point where we need a second crew. … If I can get volunteers in, they can reduce costs in a lot of places, we can add those medics on."
The upheaval at Blanco EMS in August 2008 sticks with many people. Bulverde/Spring Branch EMS provided interim support during the transition period that followed. In September 2010, the transition period ended, Blanco EMS became a stand-alone organization, and West (who had volunteered since August 2008) became EMS director.
Aside from mutual aid, Bulverde/Spring Branch hasn't been involved with the operation of the EMS here in Blanco since 2010. "We operate under totally different protocols, with a totally different medical director," West adds. "We are severed in every way… We have our own finances and own support."
The EMS organization has met many milestones, West continues, both on the medical side and with progression of the group's protocols. The biggest thing since that time, after the transition period ended, has been that the organization has focused on the consistency of medics who respond.
"The medics are starting to become familiar with the people of the city," West elaborates. "They're recognized in the community. It brings up the comfort level with the citizens but it makes our medics more efficient in what they do–knowing the territory and responding."
The protocols, or the services the medics can provide and the equipment on the ambulances, have also advanced. For example, they can now use hypothermic cooling for cardiac arrest patients.
"We try to give back to the community in any way," West says. Started two years ago, and still going today, Blanco EMS introduced the Vial of Life program. A large medicine bottle, available at the station, contains papers with medical information that first response teams can quickly access. A "Medical Vial Participant" sticker on your front door tells medics to find the vial in your refrigerator door.
Last year, EMS introduced their hardship policy for people who don't have insurance. "The primary goal of Blanco EMS is to provide emergency medical care, not burden somebody with a bill," says West. The organization works with people on payments.
This year, West is bringing Texans in Motion to Blanco. The program works with citizens on the proper installation of child car seats. The group already visits town from time to time – you may have seen the courthouse grounds full of car seats.
As for the structure of the organization, Blanco EMS is an independent, non-profit entity that's not associated with the city or the county. The South Blanco County Emergency Services District (ESD), a taxing entity with borders that overlap with the Blanco Independent School District, contracts Blanco EMS to provide emergency medical services to the district. 40% of the annual budget comes from the ESD. The rest comes from donations, billing, memorials, and standbys (when an EMS crew stands ready on the set of a movie or commercial in case medical care is needed).
The Blanco EMS board is made up of 7 members; anyone in the ESD can be on the board. The organization follows the Open Meetings Act and every meeting is open to the public. The board holds their regular monthly meetings on the second Monday of the month at 6pm at the EMS station at 607 Chandler. The board is presided over by John Watson, and includes Dr. Doug Becker a vice-president, Connie Granberg as secretary, Barry Pierce as treasurer, as well as Elaine Cross, John Jones, and David Park. Jack Felps, who recently passed away, was also on the board.
Mike West is the EMS director, hired by the board. He has 19 members on the roster; two are volunteers, three are full-time paid, and the rest are part-time paid. West hopes to add to the ranks with volunteers who will help grow the organization and help increase service for the area.
The station is open all the time for people to come by, visit, and ask questions. You can also call 830-833-5239 and ask for Mike, or email him at .