Operation Life was presented with the Ambulance Provider of the Year Public Relations Award, OL Executive Director Kraig Kinney announced. Kinney accepted the award from Terry Rake, executive director of the Indiana Fire Chiefs Association.
"This was the first time, that I aware of," Kinney said, "that Operation Life has been honored as an organization by the State EMS Conference. This would not have been possible without everyone pitching in to do special events and the hard work of all the staff and employees.
"I also would note," he added, "that the nominations were viewed by a blind selection committee of the Indiana Association of Towns & Cities to pick the best candidate in each category."
Nominees in all categories "were recognized by their peers as the best of the best in our great state and those who put forth that extra effort to make sure that all of Indiana's Emergency Response Personnel remain on the cutting edge in our industry," IFCA director Rake said.
Kinney said he nominated OL "as a method of recognizing the efforts of all our employees that have worked hard to make Operation Life a great organization."
"Operation Life has a storied history with its 37 years of serving Putnam County and represents that a non-fire-based or county ambulance service can lead by example," Kinney said. "We have expanded from central Greencastle coverage and now have substations in both Bainbridge and Cloverdale to enhance our coverage and response times.
"The Cloverdale substation is currently being reconstructed after 30 years of usage," Kinney added. "We serve as a training site for several organizations, and the students have been very complimentary of the stations and equipment that we have."
Operation Life is an independent, not-for-profit service contracted to provide emergency services to Putnam County. Besides the 911 service, the organization handles transfers from Putnam County Hospital and non-emergency transports at all the extended-care facilities in the county.
Composed of some 50 staff members with an executive director, operations manager, billing staff and crews, OL has both full-time and part-time employees, along with volunteers.
"Keeping the volunteer program going permits additional ambulance coverage for the county but also permits many new EMTs to gain experience leading to employment," Kinney said. "The volunteer program includes many DePauw University students that otherwise would not be able to utilize their EMT certifications without a provider."
All OL public relations efforts are handled by on-duty crews and administration in lieu of a paid public relations staff member.
Operation Life has taken the lead in EMS Education for Putnam County, Kinney said. Besides offering paid classes, it does free voluntary training for any area department that requests it. OL has also offered safety-training sessions free of charge to facilities in the county.
A good example is Endeavor Communications, a communications cooperative in Cloverdale with several hundred employees. Operation Life has done heat emergency training, and plans additional safety talks for Endeavor's monthly training sessions.
For the general public, OL also offers free blood pressure screenings for walk-ins at the business office.
Operation Life also does school programs for the elementary and high schools on a regular basis and sponsors countless tours, including Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and the Greencastle Parks Department SPARK summer program.
It also provides coverage pro bono during the Putnam County Fair to increase awareness in the community and has actively participated in the Rotary Club's "Reality Fair" for several years and the City of Greencastle's "National Night Out."
Although it is becoming more commonplace now, Operation Life was one of the first services to utilize a newer ambulance layout in which the design emphasizes creating a "patient care area" around the technician so that drawers and cabinets are within reach rather than the traditional reaching across the patient to get supplies.
"That has improved safety and is less burdensome on patient care without having to constantly reach across the patient or get up while the ambulance is moving," Kinney said.
The open concept also removes the constrictive feeling that some ambulances in the past have had. Besides Operation Life, this innovative model has been used by at least two other ambulance services in development of their ambulance layout, Kinney noted.
Operation Life also serves as a clinical training site and works closely with the two EMS education-training institutions in Putnam County -- Area 30 Career Center and DePauw (providing resources and instructors). Operation Life serves as an observation site for Area 30's nursing program as well.
"We currently provide paramedic clinical training for the following paramedic programs: Wishard/IU School of Medicine program, Pelham Specialty Training of Bloomington, and Ivy Tech Terre Haute," Kinney noted. "These programs, which do not garner any additional revenue, illustrate the commitment of Operation Life employees toward helping others learn."
Operation Life maintains a strong employee base with dedicated EMS professionals, Kinney stressed.
"Our staff routinely volunteers to do training for disaster preparedness and work well with teamwork. Part of this dedication is shown through providing many lectures and taking on the skills recertifications at the Indiana Emergency Response Conference last year and this year."
To close, he said, "Putnam County Operation Life has had an extremely successful year and the employees have demonstrated a strong commitment to the community and patients that we serve.
"Despite having served the county for nearly 37 years now, Operation Life is not stagnant but continues to grow every day," Kinney said. "I think what best illustrates our standing in the community is that when most callers contact 911, they request 'Operation Life' by name rather than just 'an ambulance.' I believe our organization has and will continue to set an example for other EMS agencies around the state."