Opportunity.

That one word sums up the meaning behind the sirens of a Richland County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) vehicle. With each screeching blast, an EMS crew steers through bumper-to-bumper traffic or rolls quickly down back roads in response to another opportunity to save a life.

“You certainly have to be prepared for anything,” said Capt. Winta Adams, a paramedic for 14 years.

Richland County’s award-winning EMS is one of the busiest – if not the busiest – EMS units in South Carolina. Crews respond to more than 74,000 calls each year. In March alone, the staff made 6,566 runs. With that level of activity, maintaining a qualified staff and ensuring crews have the necessary equipment, training and accommodations are top priorities for the state’s Capital County.

Joining EMS, a division of the Emergency Services Department, is an opportunity for a career in public service or a path to a career in the private healthcare field. The County is looking for people who are dedicated to the mission of service, which characterizes the men and women who don the EMS uniform and have been recognized locally, statewide and nationally for their treatment of heart attack victims, educational efforts, innovative programs and rapid response times.

“The County is committed to addressing the needs of the EMS staff and continuing to encourage others who are interested in seeking employment,” County Administrator Gerald Seals said. “Emergency medical response is an awesome career choice and EMS personnel deserve to be recognized as the public safety heroes they are, along with law enforcement officers and firefighters.”

Efforts to attract qualified candidates to join the County’s EMS division are a year-round endeavor. EMS crews typically are comprised of at least one paramedic and an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Of the 181 full-time County EMS positions, 171 are currently filled and five are scheduled to be filled soon.

“Public safety is a core function of local government,” Seals said. “Therefore, it’s vitally important that we have dedicated people on staff and a good working environment for the men and women who provide the critical service of emergency care to our residents.”

County officials note that while EMS work is satisfying, it also can be demanding.

“We’re a busy county,” Michael Byrd, director of the Emergency Services Department, said. “In addition to residents, we have visitors to Fort Jackson and the state legislature, students, tourists, college football fans, business people. Richland County EMS responds to every call type imaginable to assist someone in need and our EMTs and paramedics are trained across the board to provide life-saving care upon arrival and during transport.”

A Richland County EMS crew will be dispatched more often in one 12-hour shift than it would at a neighboring jurisdiction. In addition to providing emergency response, Richland County EMS personnel engage with the public at a variety of community events.

Last year, EMS staff participated in more than 650 public events. For some EMS personnel, such events offer perks unique to Richland County: interacting with Gamecock fans at Williams-Brice Stadium, assisting people at a State House gathering – or even meeting a favorite performer at The Township. But the first priority is assisting people in crisis and doing so as quickly as possible.

Officials note that given the number of patients EMS transports and the geographic size of the County, the division’s response time of eight to 10 minutes is laudable. The efforts of crews to reach and treat people in the more remote areas of the County illustrates their dedication to serving others and why their work has been recognized by various organizations, as follows:

  • 2015 Mission: Lifeline EMS Silver Award from the American Heart Association for excellent care of heart attack patients
  • 2015 EMS Large Service of the Year by the S.C. Emergency Medical Services Network
  • 2015 Jack Niles Award for outstanding EMS education
  • 2016 Mission: Lifeline EMS Gold Award from the American Heart Association for excellent care of heart attack patients
  • Cardiac Hero Award from Palmetto Health

The County’s EMS also has distinguished itself as one of only a few nationwide to have a motorcycle paramedic response team that can rush through traffic and other obstacles better than ambulances. In addition, the department recently initiated South Carolina’s first Mobile Integrated Healthcare Collaborative, a program that has helped more than 100 patients save more than $300,000 in healthcare cost through education, resource guidance and assistance.

“We have a lot to proud of about EMS,” Seals said. “Their care for residents facing life-threatening events is second to none.”

For more information about Richland County EMS or to apply for an open position, visit www.rcgov.us.