The Salem Rescue Squad was one of the recipients of the 2023 National EMS Awards of Excellence during the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians’ general membership meeting and the opening ceremony of the EMS World Expo late last month in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The rescue squad received the 2023 Digitech Volunteer EMS Service of the Year Award.
In the writeup announcing the award, the two organizations noted, “The Salem (VA) Rescue Squad recently celebrated 90 years of volunteer service to the city of Salem in western Virginia, making it the second-oldest all-volunteer rescue squad in the United States. The Salem Rescue Squad was organized in November 1932 and was called the Salem Life Saving Crew. Operating out of one station and staffing 29 active members, the ground BLS agency operates three fully equipped BLS ambulances, three response vehicles and two golf carts for large events. The squad responds to approximately 2,000 calls annually. Recruitment and retention at a small volunteer service is a constant reality, and due to aggressive efforts the squad has successfully doubled its staff over the last two years. Provider education is another strong focus. Salem Rescue Squad promotes CE by paying for its members to attend events such as Rescue College at Virginia Tech, the First Responder Virginia Convention, and EMS Symposium in Norfolk. Salem Rescue Squad partners with the local YMCA to promote community health education while further recruiting members. The squad provides standby coverage for entertainment, sporting events and other large events such as Olde Salem Days, Salem After 5, and the Salem Fair (one of America’s largest free gate fairs), in addition to remaining ready to respond to any disaster in the state.”
“We also work closely with our three major medical facilities to promote public education and to assure that there is a therapeutic relationship between us and these agencies,” Darlene Gee said.
Two members of the rescue squad, Gee and Ken Cook, were present on Wednesday, Sept. 20 to receive the award onstage at the opening ceremony of the expo. Additionally, the squad was recognized the day before during a slideshow presentation during the membership meeting.
Gee, the training lieutenant, is a life member who has been affiliated with the squad for 37 years. Cook, the captain and personnel lieutenant, is a life member who has also been associated with the squad for 37 years.
Gee first found out about the award in late July when she was scrolling through her emails early in the morning. The news caught her off guard. “My hands were actually shaking because I wanted to tell somebody, but I couldn’t call at 3 o’clock in the morning,” she remembered.
A highlight of the trip, she said, was getting to meet EMS providers from across the country. “Every single person was so friendly,” she said. “There were thousands of EMS providers.”
Gee noted that the award is “very prestigious.” She added that she was honored to represent the squad on the stage when she and Cook were presented with the award.
Formed in 1975 and more than 90,000 members strong, the NAEMT is the only national association representing the professional interests of all emergency and mobile healthcare practitioners.
EMS World serves the full spectrum of emergency medical services providers: EMTs, paramedics, dispatchers, physicians, nurses, educators, researchers and administrators. Through a website, podcasts, webinars and the world’s largest EMS-dedicated annual conference, EMS World Expo, EMS World is an authority on providing expert-guided clinical, management and regulatory content to a discerning and dedicated audience on the front lines of out-of-hospital care.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF DARLENE GEE