As I sit down with my laptop to write this, I am watching the coverage, remembering the tragic events of 19 years ago that unfolded before our eyes on Sept. 11. In the face of tragedy, America witnessed first responders at their finest. Instead of running away, paramedics, EMTs, firefighters and law enforcement personnel responded toward the face of danger to rescue and care for those in immediate need.

At the time, Hall Ambulance had just completed its first EMT Academy. When recruitment for the second class was underway, we were overwhelmed by the number of applicants who were inspired to start their EMS career due to 9/11.

Fast-forward to 2020, and once again, the spotlight has refocused on first responders and other essential workers carrying the load to keep America moving. Personally, I will be grateful to bid 2020 farewell, but I could not do so without acknowledging the extraordinary efforts and commitment exhibited by every Hall Ambulance employee. The pandemic has tested our company's limits, but our paramedics, EMTs, RNs, dispatchers, and support staff have pushed back.

Early on, leadership took the pandemic seriously by creating an internal task force to plot Hall Ambulance’s approach to safeguarding its employees and the communities served. Non-medical, administrative and business office staff began working remotely. Employees were required and continue to participate in a wellness check at the start of their shift. Our facilities-maintenance division took on the monumental task of decontaminating ambulances following the transport of a COVID-19 patient.

Our ambulance and critical care transport crews have faced the pandemic's extra burden while continuing to respond to typical 911 requests. They have endured donning personal protective equipment (PPE), often multiple times each shift, during successive heatwaves. They have tolerated even more significant offload delays at local hospitals — waiting to transfer patient care so that they can be available for the next call for help. And despite their best sanitization efforts, they have carried the fear of accidentally taking the virus home to their loved ones. Yet, as the EMS professionals they are, they have continued to exhibit care and compassion in all they do.

On Aug. 22, Hall Ambulance was once again put to the test when the state requested the company to deploy an ambulance strike team to respond to the CZU Lightning Complex in Santa Cruz. Within moments of a recall message going out, we assembled enough paramedics and EMTs to mobilize five paramedic ambulances, a paramedic field supervisor unit, and a disaster medical supply unit to northern California. For five days, they worked shifts, staffing a CAL-MAT medical facility at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville, and responded to local 911 calls.

Perhaps now, more than ever, the public has come to know the dedication that first responders put into serving their community. On the occasion of National First Responders Day, I am beyond proud of the commitment the Hall Ambulance Team puts forward, coming together for every request for medical aid.

Lavonne C. Hall is president and CEO of Hall Ambulance Service, Inc.

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