New Rockford, ND

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42 Years of Service, the History of New Rockford’s Ambulance

Community Ambulance Service mock accident training, 1984.
Community Ambulance Service mock accident training, 1984.

May 20th, 2013
– The Community Ambulance Service of New Rockford is celebrating 42 years of service this year. The history of the service in New Rockford is the second segment of a six-part series about the Ambulance and its role in the community.

The first record of ambulance service in Eddy County was in the 1930s and 40s, when transportation to a hospital was provided by the local mortician, whose hearse doubled as the emergency vehicle. In the 1950s and 60s, the New Rockford Fire Department began limited training for medical emergencies, and provided “load and go” transportation to the nearest hospital.

In 1971, the New Rockford Fire Department sent some of its members to an advanced first aid training program for emergency services, and for several years this first “ambulance corporation” was run through the Fire Department. The first ambulance was purchased that year and stored in the City Hall garage. At this time, crew members were paid $3 per in-town run, plus $2.50 an hour for out-of-town runs.

The fire and ambulance services were separated in 1977 into two organizations, and the Community Ambulance Service was created with 21 members attending the first meeting. On-call members wore pagers for 12-hour shifts, receiving their dispatch calls from the City Hospital. Until 1985, both organizations were housed in the old City Hall building downtown, but when the City and Fire Department purchased the current building on Highway 281, the Ambulance service began renting space in the new Fire Hall.

In 1990, three high school students completed EMT training to become the first squad members under the age of 21, a tradition carried through to the present day of encouraging young community members to join the squad. (The youngest member in the organization’s history, Cindy O’Connor, joined at age 16.)

The closure of the City Hospital in led to a co-op with the Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd, which took over dispatch duties on behalf of the Ambulance. With the addition of 911 service to the area in 1997, dispatch service was transferred to the Devils Lake Law Enforcement Center, which continues the service to the present day.

The Community Ambulance Service was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in 2010, and in 2011 was granted 501(c)(3) status as a public charity. Fundraising and grantwriting began in earnest for the construction of a new ambulance building, which was completed in 2012, allowing the service to move its base of operations out of the fire hall and provide more adequate space to both organizations.

The Community Ambulance service currently consists of 39 members, many of whom are nearing retirement from the squad. New members are needed to step up and fill the shoes of these individuals, and to carry on the critical tradition of neighbors saving neighbors that has stood for so long in the community.

Squad Leader Sandy O’Connor stresses that, “What we really need are new EMTs, as many of our long-serving and retiring members are our EMTs. We need new members to take the class coming up this fall and start preparing to step into their place.”

This series exploring the Community Ambulance Service of New Rockford will run each month and will provide a closer look inside the history and importance of the organization. The series will continue next month with “A Day in the Life of an Ambulance Member”.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Ambulance, contact Sandy O’Connor at (701) 947-2989 or (701) 302-0499. The next EMT Certification course will open in September.

This site maintained by the New Rockford Area Betterment Corporation.