Culver EMS seeks volunteers for benefit of entire community

Culver's EMS service is looking for a few community-minded individuals to fill much-needed gaps in the program's volunteer staff, a staff which has recently become markedly depleted.

The service can have up to 30 EMTs, says director Chuck Dilts, and 16 drivers. And while Culver's service has rarely quite attained those levels, right now numbers are low enough to prove challenging, at times, for those who are involved, not to mention expensive to taxpayers over the course of time, since hours must be covered, even if it means bringing in paid staff.

"It ends up being higher cost (to have few volunteers) to the town in the long run," says early EMS member and several times past director Sally Ricciardi. "With tax freezes and the economy stinking, tax dollars don't go that far."

At present, CUTEMS (the Culver-Union Township Emergency Medical Service) has 12 volunteers and two drivers, and is paying nine part-time people and two full-time people.

Notes Bob Cooper of the service, the EMS must have at least one advanced EMT and a driver in any ambulance going out, which amounts to a minimum of four people per day, though in the case of a backup call, the service could go with a basic EMT and one driver.

Shifts are scheduled a month at a time, to cover full 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Two EMTs are scheduled for 12-hour, 6-to6 shifts, says Dilts, who notes volunteers are asked to pull a minimum of four shifts per month, with at least one being a weekend shift. Covering a shift doesn't mean a volunteer can't work or engage in other activities; just that he or she can hear their EMS radio and is prepared to move quickly if a call comes in.

EMT volunteers, who must be at least 18 years of age, will require some training, of course, and beginners typically start as drivers (currently drivers must be 21, but Dilts notes the service has considered lowering that requirement to 18).

"We provide in-house training on the ambulances," explains Dilts. "They learn about the equipment and where it's located, and how to use it. At some point in time in the first six to12 months here, drivers complete a state-certified emergency vehicle operations course."

From there, he adds, a basic EMT course follows, something with which the EMS tries to help volunteers financially. Eventually, volunteers may work up to the level of Advanced EMTs.
The EMS, Dilts notes, is part of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

Prior to 1977, ambulance needs in Culver were handled by then-funeral home director Jim Bonine with assistance from Art Birk. The service went to a volunteer one in 1977 and purchased its first ambulance in 1979. A remodel of the town hall resulted in the present ambulance garage opening in January, 1980, according to Ricciardi.

"We had an average of 25 to 30 people (in early years)," says Ricciardi. "Maybe 20 EMTs and 10 drivers."

Those numbers were steady through the 1980s and 1990s. Times changed a bit as Marshall County shifted in 1998 from local ambulance dispatch to the present 911 system. CUTEMS had officially become an Advanced EMS in 1993, after which two full-time advanced members were hired.
Changing times in Culver also contributed, says Dilts: in recent years there have been fewer volunteers working in the Culver area and able to leave their jobs during the day for an ambulance run.

Dilts points out volunteering for CUTEMS can be a stepping stone to higher positions in an emergency services profession, something several former Culver volunteers have accomplished.

"If you start as a driver," Ricciardi explains, "you can find out whether or not you can handle an accident scene or an emergency where someone's gravely ill, and then you don't spend the time (needed to take) the EMT class, if you find you just like being a driver."
Dilts, Ricciardi, and Cooper all point to a sense of accomplishment gleaned from volunteering for the service.

"It makes you feel good to know you're able to help someone," Ricciardi says.

"Its personal accomplishment, a sense of personal pride," concurs Dilts. "I get out of it helping the community; that's my biggest thing. I've always been a service-oriented person. I started out as a combat medic in the Army and it kind of filtered over into the civilian EMS."

Those interested in volunteering may contact the CUTEMS office by phone or email, 574-842-2773,, or pick up an application at the town hall at 200 E Washington Street in Culver.