Fire/Rescue, EMS join forces


Emergency medical services (EMS) to La Vernia-area residents “... jumped 20 years overnight,” said District 1 Fire/Rescue Chief Chris Thompson. He and District 3 EMS Director David Rice sat down with the La Vernia News recently to discuss emergency care and services.

Thompson said residents around La Vernia have told him they notice the difference in EMS provision and are glad to have these services. The city deserves it, he said.

Since Nov. 28, District 3 -- based in Stockdale -- has been providing EMS coverage to the La Vernia and Sutherland Springs areas, formerly covered by the La Vernia Volunteer Ambulance Service (La Vernia EMS).

District 3 and Wilson County Emergency Services District 1 (District 1 Fire/Rescue) work in tandem to allow firefighting personnel who are certified as first responders -- paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and others -- to respond to EMS calls in District 1’s coverage area, as well as to District 3’s primary area, 349 square miles in and around Stockdale.

As a first responder organization, District 1 personnel respond to emergency situations and are certified by the Texas Department of Health, but do not transport patients.

If District 1 arrives first to a scene, personnel can begin treatment, paramedics can administer medication that they have available, and personnel can continue care until the ambulance arrives.

Currently, District 1 Fire/Rescue has four trucks equipped as first responder vehicles.

How it works

District 1 serves the La Vernia area with fire protection, and houses a District 3 ambulance. Two other ambulances are located in Stockdale.

District 3 EMS has three ambulances licensed as Advanced Life Support with Mobile Intensive Care capability. These are equipped with defibrillator monitors for cardiac purposes.

Two ambulances now are staffed with a paramedic and an emergency medical technician 24/7/365. A third ambulance also can be put into service.

The ambulances are strategically placed across the coverage area, Thompson and Rice said, and the groups work in unison. If the two main ambulances are out, District 1 can be dispatched. If they are at the scene already, they can begin treatment.

Patient care and response times are the two most important issues, both men emphasized.

Currently, the average estimated time of arrival is 8 to 9 minutes.


Since District 1 and District 3 are both emergency services districts -- supported by ad valorem (property) tax in their respective areas -- Wilson County and the city of La Vernia provided seed money to aid service provision -- $26,500 from the county and $20,000 from La Vernia. The money is being used to pay for a paramedic and EMT in the La Vernia area, Rice said. Contracts between the county, La Vernia, and District 3 EMS run though Sept. 30.

The current EMS arrangement is not a “money grab for District 3,” Thompson and Rice said, responding to community questions.

All expenses and income are being tracked for the additional coverage area. After six months, accounts receivable -- private pay and reimbursement from insurance providers --should sustain the La Vernia-area coverage, Rice said.

EMS numbers at a glance

Wilson County ESD 3 (District 3 EMS) and Wilson County ESD 1 (District 1 Fire/Rescue) provided data regarding their EMS services to the Stockdale, Sutherland Springs, and La Vernia areas, including:

District 1 Fire/Rescue

Staff includes:

• Licensed paramedics: 4

• Emergency medical technicians (EMT): 9

• Emergency care attendants (ECA): 3

• Personnel taking classes for EMTs, 3; ECAs, 8

Other data:

• Average estimated time from dispatch to arrival at the scene: 7 minutes, 56 seconds.

• In December, assisted with 13 calls requiring an ambulance.

District 3 EMS

Staff includes:

• Licensed paramedics: 13

• EMT - Advanced: 1

• EMTs: 12

Since extending coverage to La Vernia hired two more paramedics.

Other data:

• Average estimated time from dispatch to arrival at the scene: 8 minutes, 58 seconds.

• In December, covered 62 calls in the La Vernia area; transported 59.