Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services, Inc. (SEMS) is a third service, not-for-profit 501(c) (3) provider of emergency medical services for approximately 10,000 residents in rural Washington County, Maryland. Smithsburg is situated at the western base of South Mountain and approximately 10 miles from the Mason Dixon line separating Maryland and Pennsylvania. Due to our unique geographic location, we provide direct mutual aid to Frederick County, Maryland; Franklin County, Pennsylvania; and the eastern suburbs of Hagerstown, Maryland. Our primary response area covers approximately 70 square miles and includes the communities of Smithsburg, Leitersburg, Mt. Aetna, Cascade, Pen Mar, Fort Ritchie, Ringgold, Cavetown, and Wolfsville. In addition to the varying geographical terrain, our response area is different from other companies due to farms, railroads, industrial businesses, manufacturing companies, housing developments, and even a recreational hang gliding spot. We also serve a sizeable portion of the Washington County section of the Appalachian Trail.
Staffing is provided 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All advanced life support (ALS) services are provided by Nationally Registered Paramedics (NRP) and EMT-Intermediates (NREMT-I). Basic Life Support (BLS) personnel trained at the EMT level provide services for those patients requiring less intensive and specialized care. We have three fully equipped advanced life support ambulances, two ALS chase vehicles (sometimes called intercept SUVs), and two support service vehicles. At least one ALS crew is fully staffed at all times, with supplemental staffing provided by dedicated and highly trained volunteers. SEMS is a member of the Washington County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association and receives direct oversight from the Washington County Division of Emergency Services. The department is independently operated by a combination of dedicated volunteer officers and administrative support personnel. Funding is provided by the generous donations of Smithsburg and the surrounding communities, direct billing, and county government assistance.
SEMS was formed in 1981 to better address the growing need for professional EMS services in the Smithsburg area. Originally chartered and operated out of the local fire department by volunteer personnel, the organization quickly grew in size. Call volume expanded as the local population grew. In 1989, several founding members embarked on an ambitious journey: to build a station and complex solely dedicated to the provision of emergency services for the sick and injured. The current building at 8 Maple Avenue was dedicated on November 18, 1990. For over 20 years, local volunteers have provided the vast majority of administrative and operational support out of the same building. SEMS answers approximately 1,200 emergency calls each year.
EMS services have drastically changed over the years. The steady march into the future has led to a complex list of required knowledge and technical competencies that require paramedics to wear many hats. They are both field clinicians and social workers. They respond to our worst disasters. They bring comfort when tragedy strikes. Most importantly, they must be equipped with the mental fortitude to answer the call for help when all other options fail. Paramedics in Maryland now carry over thirty different medications for the treatment of a vast variety of medical emergencies. ECGs are captured in the field and transmitted wirelessly to local hospitals. For the first time in the history of the profession, serious empirical research is being applied to develop better treatments and to save more lives.
The SEMS staff is dedicated to being a world-class provider of prehospital emergency care. By maximizing the benefit of local, qualified volunteers, we have accomplished this goal while avoiding costly staffing expenses. This has allowed the department to provide EMS service at unparalleled value to the citizens of Washington County.