Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Plain Dealing's Volunteer EMS

This being the third week of May, is National EMS week, where we honor emergency medical service practitioners for their contributions to communities across the nation. National EMS Week began in 1974 after President Gerald Ford declared the week to acknowledge the crucial and often lifesaving work these first responders provide.

In 1979 the town of Plain Dealing started the process of securing an ambulance to serve North Bossier Parish, which had to rely on “Shreveport ambulance services – some 30 miles away – or the Springhill service – 18 miles away – when emergency medical treatment was needed. The wait for an ambulance took from one and one half to three hours,” according to Shanda Thomas, Bossier Metro writer for The Shreveport Journal. “Some of the people’s conditions worsened as they waited for medical care. Others died before an ambulance reached the small north Bossier Parish town.”

Mayor Leon Sanders, Jr. was determined to bring the much-needed emergency medical services to the community. “He contacted the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, which studied the area and found that it needed emergency services and qualified for state monies to implement the medical program.”

The ambulance cost $22,900, which was funded by a grant from the highway commission of $15,000, and the Bossier Parish Police Jury split the remaining $7,900 with the Plain Dealing town council. The EMS program cost an additional $4,600 and was funded by the Bossier Parish Police Jury as well.

What made the medical service a real success was the 21 citizens who not only volunteered their time, but they also paid for their course manuals, the certificate fee, and their uniforms. The volunteers completed 81 hours of classroom and practical training over several months to qualify state certification as emergency medical technicians.

Among these volunteers was Billy Tom Weeks, a lifelong resident of Plain Dealing and the longest-serving EMT volunteer for the service. In an article appearing in The Shreveport Times on Nov. 10, 1993, Bob Monk reported that Weeks was the town’s first EMT certified in Plain Dealing in 1979 when the service began. Not only was he the only one of the original volunteers to still reside in Plain Dealing, but 14-years later, he was still volunteering as an EMT. In the interview with Bob Monk, Weeks exclaimed, “I love this community. I’ve lived here all my life; I just want to help people and serve my community in the best way possible.”

By having a dedicated EMS in North Bossier Parish, and committed volunteer EMTs like Weeks, the mortality rate for the region improved, and many lives were saved. This week, be sure to show your appreciation to these first responders that provide lifesaving medical care. If you are posting on social media, be sure to include #NationalEMSWeek for others to see.

While the BPL History Center is closed during the pandemic, our staff members are still available to answer any research questions you may have. What do you want to know about Bossier Parish History? Email or call us at 318-746-7717.

By: Amy Robertson

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