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Brentwood EMS Celebrates 30-Year Anniversary

PITTSBURGH– The second family that is the Brentwood EMS celebrated a reunion of sorts Saturday when 150 people gathered for a dinner and dance to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the emergency medical service.

We are all family, said Diane Cook, assistant director. Our workers are extremely dedicated.

Seven volunteer firemen, who used a converted van for both emergency medical and police needs, founded Brentwood EMS in 1977.

It reorganized and elected its first set of officers in 1979, and shortly thereafter, began operations from a base in the borough building. In 1984, it was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation.

In 1992, the service moved to its current location on the ground floor of the borough building, 3624 Brownsville Road.

Today it operates with a mostly volunteer force of 14 nonmedical members, called associate members, and 13 medical volunteers. It employs eight full-time and 13 part-time paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

Many have served for more than a decade, an unusual accomplishment in an industry that traditionally struggles with recruitment and retention.

Honored for 25 years of service were Ms. Cook, Debbie Balkovec, vice president, and Lil Moskala, an associate member.

Congressional, state and local officials attended, including Brentwood Mayor Ken Lockhart, a founding member.

For something that started as a dream with an old van [to get] to where it is today, is just unbelievable, Mr. Lockhart said.

He recalled that in the early days of the service, it would use old equipment donated by the City of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Lockhart said that part of the reason the service feels like family is that many of the workers are related. Four of the women who work there, he said, are from the Cook family. Previous workers at the service were also related to the Cooks, he said.

The EMS is a dedicated group of professionals, said Councilman Jay Lieb. When you visit headquarters, it is apparent that they are all close.

The organization operates four vehicles, three of which are certified for advanced life support.

The facility is staffed with at least two workers, on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week basis. Average response time for a call is between four and six minutes, said Ms. Cook.

The service handles about 1,600 calls annually.

Last year, the EMS worked on an initiative to increase worker safety. For example, the organization was able to secure a state grant to purchase high-visibility jackets and vests for paramedics to wear while responding to night calls. The organization also held a class that taught such skills as how to secure an accident scene.

Next year the service will seek funding for capnography equipment for its vehicles.

This equipment will cost approximately $25,000 and will allow paramedics to track the carbon dioxide in a patient s exhaled breath. This information provides an immediate picture of the patient s condition.

Brentwood EMS receives its funding from medical reimbursement, state grants, fund-raisers, including subscriptions, and from the borough s general budget.

This is very satisfying work, Ms. Cook said. It makes a difference.

Erin Gibson Allen is a freelance writer.