by Marianne Gasaway
Ventura residents now have a new level of emergency care available to them. The Ventura Fire Department has expanded its capabilities to become an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provider.
“This has been a multi year process to become an official provider and expand our training and certifications to allow our team to respond to medical calls within our district,” explained Jim Sholly, firefighter, emergency medical responder and public information officer for the department. “We want to provide the best care we can to our community and this is another way we feel we can do that.”
The process of legally certifying the department and filing appropriate paperwork with the State of Iowa actually began in the spring of 2020, according to Sholly.
“That’s when we began having conversations at our regular meetings about possibly pursuing certification and asking who would be willing to step up and go through the process. About half of the members were interested, so knowing that we started the paperwork to get the ball rolling.”
Eight members of the department made the commitment to attend classes two nights per week from January through April 2021, with seven choosing to become certified. The good number of participants was enough for North Iowa Area Community College to provide an instructor to travel to Ventura to lead the classes in the town’s community center.
“Knowing we’re all volunteers, they are very helpful,” noted Sholly.
Once the Spring Semester of learning was complete, it was time for practical training. Six members of the group completed the training, followed by a series of written and practical exams in June. The remaining two members received final certification later in the year.
Jim Sholly, Matt Schroeder, Jake Whitehurst, Robert Powers, Nick Williamson, Daryl Heinemann and Bruce Cook all earned the certification.
“As a team we have been training together and working with our neighboring ambulance providers to ensure we are able to provide the best care possible to those calling for help in our area,” said Sholly. He added that all eight of the certified department members have also purchased basic medical tools which they carry in their personal vehicles in the event that they happen upon an emergency situation.
Ventura’s EMS has been averaging two calls per week. Sholly notes the service represents a significant increase from the two calls per month the department’s firefighters average.
“We are dispatched at the same time as an ambulance,” Sholly explained. “The idea is that, depending on the time of day, we (EMS) can respond quicker and begin patient assessment and initial care.”
The Ventura Fire Department has no plans to add an ambulance to its fleet. Transport will still be provided by neighboring departments, however the VFD will be able to respond with well trained and equipped medical professionals to provide initial care until an ambulance arrives. Sholly said an ambulance from Clear Lake can typically respond within about 10-minutes, however if Clear Lake is out on other calls, Mason City will respond, which can take upwards of 20 to 30-minutes.
“The ambulance crews in Clear Lake and Mason City have been appreciative of our service, I think,” said Sholly. “Extra sets of hands are always good for getting a patient in a truck to carrying gear— anything we can do to take stress off the situation. If we are there first we can hopefully take the edge off and know what information to relay to the ambulance. Sometimes 9-1-1 calls can be vague. We can identify the issue and give medics on the ambulance time to think things through and grab the tools they will need for even faster care.”
The addition of EMS services at Ventura is also providing a new point of pride for the department.
“We thank Chief John Quintus for his encouragement and support as we take on this new serviceº,” credited Sholly.
VVFD member and retired Clear Lake Paramedic Doug Phinney was also instrumental in helping achieve certification. Phinney helped to arrange cooperation with Mercy Medical Center for a medical director for the department and guided the department through procedures and protocols with the Iowa Department of Public Health.
“Like so many aspects of being a part of a volunteer fire department, this new challenge would not have been possible without the support of our community and the families of our members. Our team is comprised of 100 percent volunteers, and while those of us wearing the uniform often receive the thanks, it is our families that allow us the time to learn new skills, train, and serve that determines our success. Without them, none of this could be possible. While we hope that our services are never called upon beyond training opportunities, we stand ready to provide the best level of care, compassion, and professionalism possible in time of need.”