|Falls City Volunteer Ambulance Squad, from left: Gary Jorn, Donna Arnold, Annie Liberty, Rhonda Baxter, Angie Nolte, Amy Olberding, Heather Noa, Sandy Anno, Dwaine Anno, Rita Campbell, Chip Ebel, Sherry Aitken, David Helmick, David Aitken and Jason Youde. Not pictured: Mike Dougherty, Kevin Herling, Jenny Herling, Jim Gerweck, John Koso, Dillion Scott, Liz Kaster, Kala Richey, Shane Sutton and Mark Lowe.|
“Local Funeral Homes to Quit Ambulance Service” headlined the Oct. 18, 1966 Falls City Journal. The local funeral homes, Dorr-Philpot and Reavis-Macomber and Chaney-Hodgens-Sharrar announced to Mayor E. R. Baker and the city council they would no long provide ambulance service for Falls City and Richardson County after Dec. 1. Mayor Baker immediately appointed a committee of council members to research and make suggestions for a community ambulance Service. Council Member Robert Ferguson, who also provided the research for this article, was appointed by the mayor to chair this critical committee.
Once the announcement was made by the funeral homes, Subby Lombardo informed the council he would take over the ambulance service by purchasing a new station wagon and retrofitting his existing station wagon into an ambulance in order to keep these valuable services in the community. Local doctors reviewed Subby’s credentials, which included serving as an army surgical technician in World War II followed by six years of ambulance service in Omaha, and emphatically approved his offer of continued service.
This newly formed Ambulance Service would have two ambulances and equipment valued at $10,000 but after three months Mr. Lombardo returned to the city council to inform them the ambulance service was losing money. The council took immediate action and went back to the committee for additional recommendations. The committee began looking at a county wide ambulance service and initiated talks with Falls City Community Hospital to evaluate if their hospital association would take over this service. They turned down the proposal but discussions by county representatives soon began and consideration was given to provide a city-county ambulance service. The city council, during a special meeting on April 11, 1967, authorized the city to begin operating a city wide ambulance service for emergencies with this service only offered to citizens within the cities corporate limits. The city ambulance service would be operated via the Falls City police department. This decision was crucial as the county commissioners took no action regarding a city-county plan. By April 18, 1967 the county setup a temporary ambulance service for emergencies only and this plan was operated from the county sheriff’s office.
Over the next few months, discussions and public hearings were held with no resolution then on Jan. 4, 1968 Humboldt Ambulance Service agreed to contract with the county to provide ambulance service for the entire county.
This decision was announced in the Jan. 24, 1968 Journal and Howard (Buddy) Simmonds informed the public he was establishing an ambulance service which would be operated out of his service station. Buddy completed the necessary first aid training and operated this ambulance service as a one man operation! Mr. Simmonds and his wife continued to operate the county ambulance but in the early months of 1973 they announced services would only be offered during the day. This left nights and weekends unattended which was a major hurdle because the State Department of Health and Human Services required an ambulance service to provide coverage 24/7 so for a short period of time the county sheriff’s department covered these shifts.
By the end of 1973 a group called Richardson County Ambulance, led by Leslie Bippes, was taking shape which later became the Falls City Volunteer Ambulance Squad.
In the May 7, 1974 edition of the Journal the FC Volunteer Ambulance Squad had been formed and members were gearing up to take a 24 week, 82 hour emergency technician’s course. Twenty Seven volunteers graduated from the 24 week emergency technician’s course during a ceremony at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 20th and Towle. Peter Beekman was the first squad president. This organization would cover nights and weekend until Simmonds Ambulance Service announced they were discontinuing their service effective Jan. 1, 1975.
The Falls City Volunteer Ambulance Squad then became the 24/7 service for Falls City and eastern Richardson County.
Falls City and Richardson County have a long history regarding EMT services and currently 17 EMT’s and 7 drivers service Falls City and surrounding areas. The squad has three ambulances equipped with defibrillators with one unit utilizing an auto-pulse and another equipped with heavy rescue equipment, “jaws of life,” and generator. The remaining two are primarily used for local rescue calls or on call service within their service area.
The squad also volunteers on standby for sporting events at public and private schools. Two to three- person crews are on duty 24 hours a day and dispatching is handled by the FC Police Dept., which also serves as the public safety answering point for Richardson County and houses the Enhanced 911 system. Dispatchers are certified as Emergency Medical Dispatchers (EMD) which allows dispatchers to provide pre-arrival medical instructions to callers with medical problems up to and including CPR until medical personnel arrive. Squad members, who are all volunteers, are proud of their average response time which is 4 to 5 minutes from the time of call until the ambulance is rolling out the door. In addition, there is access to nearby air service and a helicopter can be on scene 20 minutes from the time they are called. These medical professionals can assist ambulance personnel at the scene or transport a patient directly to a trauma center. This vast array of care provides Falls City and the surrounding area with quality medical services!
EMS week is May 19-26 and the Falls City Volunteer Squad will be hosting an Open House on May 23 from 6-8 p.m. at the EMS Building located at 18th and Towle St. Ambulance tours, presentations for children, extrication demonstrations and other activities will be available.
Finally, we are always looking for additional volunteers so if you would like to become a squad member please stop by and pick up an application or contact President Amy Olberding at (402) 245-5504.