The Lakeside Quick Response Unit (QRU) has been answering the call for emergency medical services for 38 years serving residents and travelers in the areas of Rollins, Lakeside, Somers and the Lower Flathead Valley. A recent collaboration with the South Kalispell Fire District will allow this non-profit to extend its services to the residents of South Kalispell. Until now, the residents and travelers in the South, East and West boundaries of the City of Kalispell did not have a dedicated ambulance service available to them. Emergency calls requiring ambulance response had to be routed to Kalispell, Smith Valley or Evergreen emergency medical service providers.
The Lakeside QRU responds to over 400 emergency dispatched calls per year and has seen a large percentage of those calls increasing in the Somers and Lower Valley areas. The increase in emergency responses migrating to the northern boundaries of the Lakeside QRU’s response area has resulted in challenges as the ambulances as well as a majority of its medical personnel are located in and around the Lakeside area. The QRU’s two ambulances are stationed at its facility in Lakeside, Montana while one aid car is rotated among the personnel allowing them to respond to the scene of an emergency directly from their location without having to first stop at the ambulance hall to collect personnel and equipment.
In June 2019, Lakeside QRU Executive Director, Jordan Owen and South Kalispell Fire Department Chief, Chris Yerkes began discussing the challenges faced by each Unit and a desire to deliver improved and new services to the residents of the Flathead Valley. “When it became noticeable that over 50% of our 911 requests come from Somers and Lower Valley, we knew then we needed to work on a solution to increase our capabilities to serve those residents and travelers with the same response time and quality the Lakeside QRU has provided throughout its history. We also knew we needed more personnel co-located to the area to aid in this effort. We have had a long-standing relationship with the South Kalispell Fire Department QRU and it seemed like a logical starting point to see what we could do together. In talks with Chief Yerkes it became apparent we could think bigger and discuss how we could help serve his community with a dedicated ambulance and capitalize using his medical personnel while accomplishing our goal to speed up our service to North Somers and Lower Valley areas.” says Owen.
This proactive collaboration has resulted in the Lakeside QRU receiving a grant from the Montana Department of Transportation to purchase a third ambulance and the South Kalispell Fire District has redrawn the emergency service boundaries to reflect the expanded role of both organizations.
The new ambulance will be delivered in the next few months. However, the organization is not waiting on this delivery to begin serving its clientele. The QRU is looking for a facility to rent as soon as possible so they can station one ambulance from its current fleet in the South Kalispell area while awaiting delivery of the new ambulance. “We need an enclosed secure space to house the ambulance, ideally near the highway. This space must be environmentally controlled and have a 10’x12’ garage door that will accommodate the ambulance. We don’t need much.” says Owen. We are asking the public to help us locate and lease such a place. Inquiries can be made by calling Lois Lauman at 406-857-3512 or 406-253-2841.
The Lakeside QRU has 17 highly trained medical service volunteers and 5 responders from South Kalispell have joined the Lakeside QRU team, bringing the total number of volunteer responders to 22. “We are gearing up for a 40% growth in service needs in a very short time. We were able to draw on the skills and resources of the existing South Kalispell emergency medical responders, however this growth will require recruitment of new volunteers for both Lakeside and South Kalispell Fire Department. Anyone looking to join a professional, highly trained organization is encouraged to call me at 406-844-2775 for Lakeside QRU and Chief Yerkes at 406-253-6247 for South Kalispell Fire. And if you are not already an emergency response trained individual, we can help you get the training and licensure required” says Owen. A willingness to help others and a desire to give back to the community are great reasons to become a volunteer emergency medical responder however the QRU offers additional benefits that may be of interest such as: no cost training, satisfying the continuing education requirements of maintaining medical response licensure, experience: gaining real-life work experience in the medical emergency field, leadership opportunities, and belonging to a team. The responders of the Lakeside QRU individually possess a variety of technical skills that allow them to competently work in the fast paced and stressful emergency medical response arena and the Lakeside QRU has a deep appreciation and respect for the diverse skills and knowledge of each team member.
Lois Lauman, Chairperson of the Board of Directors for the Lakeside QRU sums it up by stating “The leadership of the Lakeside QRU and the South Kalispell Fire Department have worked tirelessly over the past nine months to bring together this collaboration and we are pleased that the benefits of this project will have direct and immediate impact on our communities”.