Changes under way at Calabash Volunteer EMS

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

CALABASH — Change is afoot at Calabash Volunteer Emergency Medical Services.


One of the changes for the 31-year-old department occurred last October when EMT-1 Mark Powers was appointed chief, replacing Nick Todd who served as chief for a few months, department spokeswoman Amanda King said.

There are other changes, as well.

Precept is a newly implemented program for new members-in-training.

“Someone fresh out of school would need to get on an ambulance, one out of school and certified,” King said. “They come here for training and get familiar with the EMS system.”

The program enables participants to move on to other professional systems.

The department appointed “Preceptors” — squad members who are deemed “competent and confident” enough to teach and shadow Precepts during their training and time learning about the EMS and Brunswick County’s 911 system.

The station has updated its cardiac monitors and standard operating guidelines (SOG) and implemented new uniforms and a pay increase for its intermediates, as well as monthly supplements for officers.

There’s also a new uniform policy of black pants, no shorts and no attire worn that isn’t issued by the department in an effort to look more professional, King said.

Inside the station, the nearly 20-member volunteer department has a more home-like atmosphere to provide down time after calls.

Members can return to the station after a tough call and feel as though they are returning to their home to unwind, King said. Other interior changes at the station include new recliners and remodeled bathrooms.

Powers’ officers include seven-year member EMT Jeff Oxnard, who remained as a lieutenant, and EMT-B King, who was appointed captain.

The department operates at the Advanced Life Support (ALS) level, which can do more intervention and provide support for paramedics.

“Every time someone picks up the phone and calls 911, we respond,” King said. “It’s us and a paramedic unit.”

Not every patient is going to be paramedic-level.

“Someone with a heart attack is going to be a paramedic-level call,” she said. “Someone with a stubbed toe is a basic-level (BLS) call.”

If a patient doesn’t require paramedic assistance, then a paramedic unit is kept in service for the next call.

“We’re basically keeping these paramedic units available so people who need further paramedic-level monitoring or intervention can be tended to,” King said.

In addition to Calabash and Carolina Shores, CVEMS serves the communities of Sunset Beach, Longwood, Ocean Isle Beach and portions of Shallotte.

The department relies solely on donations and proceeds from its Calabash EMS Thrift Store for funding. While it relies on volunteers, a few of its members work primarily for Brunswick County.

“When we’re on duty, we’re volunteers,” King said.

Since the change in administration, King said, the department has received many applications from people interested in becoming members. Potential members must go through a series of processes, including filling out an application while speaking with an officer and being interviewed.

Upon approval from the initial session, applicants have a mandatory 12-hour observation period with the unit, which is split into three four-hour days to show “just what they are getting prepared for and to get acquainted with three different crews,” King said.

The next step after that is participation in the lengthy Precept process.

Once Precept is over, applicants are not set free; they go on a 90-day probationary period, which acts as a safeguard for current members of the squad to be able to evaluate applicants before they are voted on by the squad.

The program has proven its efficiency, King said.

Of 14 applicants who applied in September, just three have made it to being released and running shifts on a CVEMS ambulance.

Since last December, only two members have been released.

The five new members who are finished with their Precepting period, probation, boarding in Brunswick County and functioning at their level of care for CVEMS include April Owens EMT-B, Sheila Ward EMT-I, Susan Kellough EMT-I, Danielle Freeman EMT-I and Judy Jackson EMT-P.


Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.