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CCMSD to build entry level first responder program


January 7, 2021

Sundance’s ambulance service has acquired a state-of-the-art ambulance with improved equipment and has full-time paramedics working for Crook County Medical Services District (CCMSD), says EMS Coordinator Anthony Vopat. However, there’s a final missing piece in the quest to upgrade the service: a driver/operator program.

Vopat is hoping that members of the community will be interested in stepping into this new role, which is part of a volunteer program to ensure the ambulance service is ready to respond at all times. The goal, he says, is both success and sustainability.

“There’s a chance here to make something hopefully really successful for our community,” he says.

EMR Program

While the level of training required to operate the ambulance is not as intensive as the training required to be an EMT or paramedic, it’s still necessary for a volunteer to be trained to safely operate the vehicle. Vopat’s overall plan is to build a volunteer Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) program for Sundance and then branch out to do the same for the other communities in the county.

The EMR level of training is defined by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians as the ability to provide immediate lifesaving care to critical patients. An EMR has the knowledge and skills to provide lifesaving interventions while waiting for additional EMS resources to arrive, and also provides assistance to higher level personnel at the scene of emergencies and during transport.

Like many other states, Wyoming uses this national registry as a standard for all EMS certifications, Vopat says. The EMR certification is the entry level and, as such, is one of the least challenging to attain.

“It’s also one of the easiest ones to maintain every two years for your certification, because you do have to maintain continuing education and so forth,” Vopat says.

“It’s basic first aid, and a little more advanced, and patient assessment. It gets people looking at how to address a trauma or somebody who is sick and gives them the mental framework to look at a person and start asking questions to start treating them.”


For the last couple of years, the Sundance ambulance service has moved away from being staffed by volunteers and towards a system in which paramedics are employed directly and perform duties within the medical system while not responding to emergencies.

“What we’re going for is having paramedics as the attendant post: the person who is responsible for attending to the care of the patient in the back of the ambulance,” Vopat explains.

“At our hospital here in town, we’ve adopted that position into the hospital and we use that attendant position here at the hospital.”

It’s unusual for a rural medical services district to be able to provide such a level of coverage, he says, but so far it has been successful and is of great benefit to the community. However, there’s one gap that needs filling: drivers for the ambulances.

“There’s lots of ways to slice this pie. What has to happen functionally is that we need to have an attendant’s position and then a driver/operator: somebody who is responsible for maintaining the ambulance in a safe manner throughout the call,” he says.

“Our end goal is to have that position to be staffed by a person 24/7 who is an EMR or better.”

Driver/operator would be a compensated volunteer position, paid a small amount per hour while on standby with additional compensation if called out.

“The idea is to have a pool of people who are able to do it and have some training,” he says.

Personal Benefits

EMR training can be of great value to a person even outside of the program, Vopat points out. If you happen to find yourself at the scene of an emergency or a family member becomes suddenly ill or has an accident, you will have the skills to be of service in those vital first few minutes.

“It’s a little bit of help that you can then offer. Sometimes a little bit of confidence that you can help makes a big difference,” he says.

It can also be an excellent first step for anyone considering a future career in medicine, providing initial skills as well as the opportunity to gain experience. For this reason, Vopat encourages anyone over the age of 18 to consider joining the program, even though the driver/operators themselves will need to be 21 years of age.

If you are interested in taking part in the driver/operator program, contact Vopat by calling him at the the hospital. You will need to be 21 years or over due to insurance requirements and have a clean driving record.

Training will include Certified Emergency Vehicle Operations, which is a driver safety course specifically for ambulances, and a competency program.


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