Philip Ambulance Service open house

Philip Ambulance crew ... Back row, from left: Marty Hansen, Mike Schultz, Dody Weller, Amy Kroetch, Dianne Parsons, Edna Knutson, Steve Millage and Larry Hanes. Middle row: Karyl Sandal, Carla Smith, Debbie Hansen, Donna Smith, Vanessa Anderson, Kim Bouman, Pam Word and Brenda Kersteins. Seated: Training Officer Lori Quinn, Treasurer/Billing Esther Oldenberg, Director Don Weller, Secretary Debbie Hanrahan and Sergeant at Arms Lee Vaughan. Not pictured: Mark Foley and Gayle Rush

Moved into its new location, the Philip Ambulance crew offered an open house on May 22. Crew members have been eager to show off the new facilities - to the point of giving preliminary tours of the building during the remodeling stages to anyone who wished.

Gutting of the structure began around mid-April of 2006, shortly after the ambulance service acquired the property from Kennedy Implement.

The Philip Volunteer Fire Department had purchased several additional trucks. With the two ambulance units sharing bay space, some fire units had to be parked outside. This was an unbearable situation for many reasons. Theft of gasoline had occurred on several occasions. Additionally, current Homeland Security regulations require that all emergency vehicles and equipment be stored in secured locations. There was no room inside the PVFD building to expand.

According to Philip Ambulance Service Director Don Weller, the remodeling involved well over 5,000 volunteer man hours. "I practically lived down there. The PVFD and some other community groups and area residents helped a lot," said Weller. The plumbing, heating and air conditioning labor was contracted out. Some of the sheetrock work was also done professionally, mostly because, "My crews just got flat tired," admitted Weller. About 26,000 pounds of sheetrock went into the remodeling project.

Costs were paid for out of the service's allocated savings and a loan made from the First National Bank of Philip.

The facility upgrade takes the usable 2,000 square footage of the old shared location to 4,000 square feet of used space in the new location. The steel shed in back and the office space and parking lot to the north are being rented out to other entities.

"We are pretty proud of our new home," said Weller. "Besides the room and possibly helping with recruitment, its a nice place for us to be when on call. It's especially nice for members who live in the country when they have to be in town on call. We are a paid-for/volunteer service; we don't get paid for being on call, only for when we are on actual runs." The members of the service - especially the intermediates and paramedics - operate under the doctor's licenses of Philip doctors.

The facility's meeting room, kitchen and restrooms were designed to be rented out per occasion for public and private use. This area, though accessible only through a coded security system, is also cut off from the increased security of the rest of the building. Only the EMTs have access to the ambulance bays.

The two ambulance bays could hold a third ambulance someday in the future. The current 2001 and 2005 Ford chassis units are kept on an estimated seven-to-eight year rotation. A rig is replaced after about 120,000 to 140,000 miles. The cost for a new unit is around $130,000, and the needed equipment inside adds another $60,000 to the total cost.

State law requires a minimum of two EMTs on the truck during each run. Most often the driver is the second EMT. Weller estimates that around 60 percent of the runs are for transport of patients from the Philip hospital to other hospitals such as Rapid City Regional or to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Fort Meade or Hot Springs. Some long distance runs have included going to Denver, CO, Omaha, NE, and Rochester, MN.

The Philip Ambulance Service officially incorporated and became a non-profit entity in April of 1999. Before that, it had a varied history. It had been operated under the PVFD and was once called the Philip Ambulance. Norm Payne was a previous director for over 20 years. Don Weller took over the service from Mike Moses approximately six years ago. The service received some assistance from the City of Philip with some of the insurance needs.

Weller has been appointed to the Governor's EMS Advisory Council. He is the only representative for the volunteer services in the state, as opposed to the full-time employee services from Rapid City and Sioux Falls. One council goal is to increase recruitment.

The Philip Ambulance Service has a reputation for training courses in the region, which includes not only Haakon County, but Wall, Kadoka, Fort Pierre and other communities. Weller and others volunteer their time as trainers. Four students from a recent EMT-Basics class passed their practicals test on May 5. They must now pass a written National Registry Test; a standardized test similar to what registered nurses must pass. "When we get enough people interested, we will gladly schedule another course," said Weller.

The beginning interviews for a recruitment and promotional video were shown during the open house. The completed product is projected to be ready before the end of the year. Hopes are that it can be used as a recruitment tool for ambulance crews across the state and possibly for crews and departments in other states.