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Ambulance company shows skills to public

March 13, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

SMITHSBURG - On Sunday, Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services opened its doors to the public to show that contributions are money well spent.

The three-hour event was the first of its kind for the ambulance company, said Chief Jason Sturm, 28.

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"It's our way of showing the people that their contributions don't just pay the light bill. We're putting their money to good use," he said.

Sturm said residents have been generous with contributions to the ambulance company over the years.

With the help of the public, Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services moved from the Smithsburg Fire Department station 10 years ago, where it had been renting space.

In 1990 the ambulance company completed construction on a station of its own - set on 2.78 acres on Maple Avenue and costing about $220,000, Sturm said.

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The building has six bays, a co-ed bunk room, living room, kitchen and communication room, he said.

Because of the community's support, Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services' finances are sound, he said. About one-third of its $150,000 budget comes from donations.

The company serves about 3,000 households and is currently trying to regain coverage in the Mount Aetna and Leitersburg areas lost to Community Rescue Service of Hagerstown about 10 years ago, when Smithsburg had fewer volunteers and equipment, he said.

If the Washington County Commissioners approve the transfer of the territory back to Smithsburg it will add about 1,200 households to its coverage area - which the company now can handle, Sturm said.

Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services has 20 active members and one paid paramedic who works from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The station's medics responded to about 640 calls last year, Sturm said.

The ambulance company's fleet includes two ambulances, two advanced life support chase cars, a duty officer vehicle and rescue squad truck.

Recent equipment purchases include two Lifepack 12-monitor defibrillators which allow medics to provide immediate treatment for heart attack patients and Hurst Jaws of Life auto extrication equipment.

The ambulance company is particularly excited about the defibrillators - each costing $21,500 - because they "take a picture of the heart to visualize any dead heart muscle," said Sturm.

The cutting-edge equipment will save medics steps and speed up treatment, he said.

During Sunday's open house Smithsburg medics gave demonstrations of the Lifepack equipment, free blood pressure and glucose monitoring and tours of the facility and vehicles. A rescue simulation using the Jaws of Life was also conducted by medics with participation by members of the Smithsburg Fire Department, he said.

Judith E. Ferro, who sits on the ambulance company's board of directors, learned first-hand the value of the services Smithsburg's medics provide, she said.

Twenty years ago she had a brush with death and was saved by the efforts of the local company, she said.

Ferro had been mixing chemicals to refinish some furniture and began to feel ill. She stopped working, went home and found herself struggling to breathe.

"I was turning blue," she said.

Neighbors called 911 and the rapid response by Smithsburg medics helped save her life, she said.

"They are really great, dedicated people," said Ferro.

About 25 to 30 people turned out for the open house, which Ferro said was encouraging for a first-time endeavor.

The cold, windy, overcast weather may have kept some people from attending, she said.

"I am delighted. Next time it will be even better," she said.

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