RICEVILLE | The Riceville Ambulance Service, a nonprofit dedicated to providing ambulance service for Riceville and the surrounding area, has a new ambulance, following the generous support of many individuals and organizations, especially those from Mitchell and Howard Counties.

The new blue and white ambulance, equipped with an IV warmer and child’s safety restraining seat, has already answered numerous calls, Allison Zweibohmer, president of the service, said. The emergency vehicle is also equipped with high ceilings, LED lighting inside and out along highly reflective doors to prevent other emergency responders from hitting them at an accident scene.

The ambulance, with a price tag of $150,000, was manufactured at Life Line Industry in Sumner.

“Kenny Marr played a key role in meeting with a Life Line Representative, especially helping to set specifications for what we wanted,” Zweibohmer said.

To complete the purchase, the organization needed to raise $45,000. Juliet O’Keefe played a key role in the fund raising effort.

“The money was obtained through grants and private donations,” O’Keefe said. “Huge amounts of small private donations amounting to $50 to $250 added up to $7,000 the first month, which was really gratifying. It’s now all paid for.”

It’s evident the Riceville Ambulance Service plays a huge part in Mitchell County’s safety network. It serves an area as far south as the Chickasaw County line, to east of Elma, and north to Chester, one-quarter mile from the Minnesota border, west to New Haven.

In 2015, the ambulance service answered 170 calls, and in 2016 answered 180 calls. Routine ambulance calls can consist of a falls, miss administered medications and small traumas.

“There has been increase in drug-related calls,” Zweibohmer said. “According to national statistics, only about three percent of all calls are true emergencies.”

The rural service is unique because it services four local hospitals and a regional hospital. Patients can be taken to Cresco, Charles City, Osage, New Hampton and Rochester, Minnesota. The service’s EMTs strive to keep their response and arrival time at a minimum.

While the service is doing well today, back in 2014, it was on the verge of collapse. The team had dwindled in numbers and needed help.

“We put out a call and 14 members of the community stepped forward and have provided great service to the ambulance, and to the community.” Zweibohmer said.

To serve as an EMT, each new member had to take extensive training over six months and then pass a final examine. To maintain their license they must complete 24 hours of continuing education every two years for state certification, and the five nationally-qualified EMT’s on Riceville’s force must complete 48 hours of training every two years. Presently, the 24 member team consists of 19 EMTs and five drivers. The members meet each month at the ambulance garage.

Zweibohmer said, “I do this because I enjoy helping people.”

O’Keefe added, “I have a medical background and it is because of our community that I do this. Someone has to step forward.”

Both women praised the Riceville Fire Department who are backups on accident scenes.

“The fire department is a great group of guys who support us at car accidents,” Zweibormer said. “They are paged out with us and at times help lift.”

In a reciprocal gesture, the ambulance service is at all fire scenes, unless called elsewhere.

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