Cherokee County has seen a big change in emergency medical care during the past few years. Decades ago, the ambulance service was handled by a local funeral home and their primary purpose was nothing more than to get the injured or sick to the hospital as quick as they could. It was also during this time that most of the fire departments within the county were handled by local volunteers. Times have changed and today you can no longer be just a firefighter.
As the fire department got into the emergency medical services field, three people have been instrumental in the education and training of our firefighters. Dr. Jill Mabley, Medical Director for the fire department, Randy Pierson, EMS Program Director and Danny West, a Division Chief, have all worked together to bring the emergency medical care in the county to an even higher standard.
New recruits who come into Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services are trained in firefighting skills for many months, but, as soon as they finish, they go directly to school to become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Firefighters today are not only on fire trucks, but they are now a part of the ambulance service that was taken over by the county several years ago. Cherokee County has been very fortunate to have several firefighters to go forward later in their career to become paramedics, too. Paramedics are advanced providers of emergency medical care and are highly educated in topics such as anatomy and physiology, cardiology, medications, and medical procedures. Training to become a paramedic may take over a year to complete.
According to Dr. Mabley, “There was an effort to make paramedics a more recognized profession that has a national entity supervising it and that can accredit the courses.” Randy Pierson, who does the training for paramedics in the county fire department, also stated that years ago there was a national EMS agenda that looked at where emergency medical services needed to go in the future and what changes needed to be made to get everyone on the same level. “There was such a hodgepodge of training throughout the country where some of the services were terrible, while others were great. However, there was no consistency in the education because some states required national registry, while others did not” he added.
Because of all these changes, Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services are now working hard to make our paramedic training an accredited program. “We were able to teach the program under a letter of review. They looked at us initially and they said that we had enough of the stuff together to start the program. They came back to do a site visit and notified us of their recommendations on anything that needed to be addressed and now we are waiting to hear if we are approved and then, hopefully, we will be an accredited program,” stated Pierson.
Dr. Mabley also said that it was very unusual for a fire department to get the accreditation. “The really powerful thing for me is that this has shown the commitment of the county commissioners and the fire administration in regards to a higher level of education for emergency medical services,” she added.
The last day for the current paramedic class was this past Monday. They will be graduating on Monday, August 13th. Those in this year’s class were Ryan Barker, James Brock, Cody Caviness, Joshua Germon, Kevin Hamilton, Ryan Hixson, Matthew Hutcherson, Isaiah Johnson, Justin Libby, Adam Long, Peter Meadows, Nathan Pelletier, Grace Robertson and Milton Zapeta.
Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services is committed to providing a superior level of emergency services to the citizens of our county by continuing to embrace new technologies, new techniques, national standards and modern research.