History of the DeSoto EMS Program

The DeSoto County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) date back to the early 1970s and began with a small handful of volunteers, a used hearse and a dedication to helping others. The efforts of that first volunteer group spread throughout the county and eventually each town was provided with an ambulance in exchange for providing fuel and personnel. As the county grew, this agreement was formalized into an inter-local agreement between the cities and the county. This agreement provided for the replacement of ambulance vehicles on a rotating basis to ensure that the units were reliable and up to date. By 1990 there were ambulances in Hernando, Horn Lake, Olive Branch, Southaven and the Community of Walls.

Response times from town to the outlying areas had always been a concern, but as the population increased so did call volume. In the early 1990's the county saw the need for additional ambulances to be stationed in the rural areas. In 1993, an ambulance was placed in service in Eudora ,and in 1995 an ambulance was placed in service at Lewisburg.

Tools Used

Rescue services in the 1960s and 70s consisted of tow truck drivers pulling vehicles apart in order to extricate trapped motorists. As EMS progressed, special rescue units were put in place to provide proper extrication. The tools carried by these units consisted of porto-power jacks, hand saws and a unique device referred to as the "can opener", a device which functioned on sheet metal the same way that a can opener worked on a tin can. The late 1970s saw the implementation of the Jaws of Life tool, which revolutionized the rescue process. By 1980, rescue units were in place in Southaven, Hernando and Walls. In 1982, the Hernando rescue unit was moved to Lewisburg due to personnel availability, call volume and call location.

Initially, the ambulance crews were limited to basic first aid procedures. The 1970s saw the implementation of the emergency medical technician (EMT) training program and a first responder training program, which met both U.S. D.O.T. and Mississippi Bureau of EMS Standards. Many improvements were made over the years and by 1995, all ambulances were staffed to the EMT Intermediate level and were capable of performing some limited advanced life support. By 2000, all ambulances were staffed at the paramedic level.

Rescue calls have continued to grow and extrication equipment has now been placed with each of the volunteer fire departments to facilitate more rapid response. DeSoto County currently operates ambulance service in Eudora, Lewisburg and Walls and supports ten volunteer fire departments throughout the county.