It’s no secret that ambulance services are struggling to keep adequate levels of staff support and are sometimes unavailable to respond immediately to calls for help. In those cases, neighboring services are asked to take calls as backups.

The situation means places like Strattanville are sometimes receiving help from a second or third ambulance service and that can delay vital services. That’s when the Strattanville Fire Department Station 660 decided to do something about it.

Station 660 Quick Response Service was approved Friday by the Pennsylvania Department of Health as a licensed EMS Agency.

“We want to thank the community for all of the love and support we’ve received since launching this initiative,” stated a release on Facebook from the fire department. “We want to extend our gratitude especially to Caring Heart Companions, Strattanville, Clarion Township, Clarion Hospital EMS, DuBois EMS Ambulance, AmServ LTD/DuSan Ambulance Service, Shippenville Ambulance, and Emmco West for all of their contributions and guidance in this process. If you live or work in the area and are interested in providing emergency medical care — please contact us for an application. We are proud of this new life saving service we are able to provide to our community.”

Fireman Nic Rawson explained the need.

“It is not Clarion Hospital’s EMS fault, but they are struggling with manpower to the point where they are significantly understaffed. Marienville doesn’t even have a station staffed overnight most nights. In Strattanville, we’re getting second and third call ambulances which can come out of our secondary Shippenville, and Brookville is our third. Brookville is about 15 miles away and even Clarion Hospital is six miles away.

“We have most of the equipment to start what is called a quick response service. A couple of fire companies already have that such as Limestone, Millcreek, Hawthorn and Corsica in Jefferson County. We’ll be dispatched along with the ambulance. We’ve added somewhere around 200 pieces of medical equipment. There’s been tremendous support and we’ve raised over $6,000 in three months.”

Rawson said part of the problem is declining membership in most volunteer fire companies because they are steeped in tradition.

“Things have been done a certain way for a long time. The old quote of the definition of insanity is to do the same things over and over again and expect different results. What we’ve done in Strattanville is we’ve increased our roster. In July 2018, we probably had about six people responding to calls. We have a new chief, we’ve changed what we’re doing, and we have new officers that are doing a great job.

“What gets the community interested in what you’re doing is to tell them we were not doing the same things over and over — we’re trying to do better. We’re training hard and we want to be the best fire service for you we can. We’re going to branch out into other things. That’s what the community needs to see to get energized.”

Dr. Rawson recently graduated with a Doctor of Osteopathy degree and is headed for a hospital residence in Illinois, but still plans to keep his membership in the Strattanville Fire Department. His dedication to fire departments and emergency services runs in his blood.

“One of the interesting things is that my family is not from Clarion County but my grandmother came here from Pittsburgh with a couple of kids and ended up with six, and if you go back 30 years you’ll find my uncle Bob was chief Central County Ambulance, a volunteer ambulance in Clarion. And now today if you go, basically to any ambulance in the Tri-County area, you will find somebody that I’m related to either working there or has been involved with it in the past. We’ve belonged to fire departments in three counties and two states and belonged to ambulance services in three states. My one cousin works in Shippenville, I have another cousin who works in DuBois. If you go right along Interstate 80, you’ll find all of us are from Strattanville.

“You had me, and three cousins were running an EMT class out of DuBois.

“Since announcing the QRS Committee, which will eventually be the QRS service we’ve added around six people to the fire company who are interested in running QRS calls. We expect at least eight people from Strattanville to take the class which will take from our active roster. Our old active roster had 15 percent of our active roster EMT qualified, but our new roster will have 80 percent who are EMT certified.”

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