From left: Steve Dyer, LCRA Regional Affairs representative; Joel Ramirez, Utopia Volunteer EMS paramedic; Lori A. Berger, LCRA Board member; Lauren Salazar, BEC marketing specialist; Patti Hillis and Julie Casburn, EMS emergency medical technicians; Jesse Salazar, BEC lineman; Gini Hobbs, EMS vice president; Debbie Goodner, an EMS EMT; Doug Carlyle, EMS president; and Michael L. "Mike" Allen, LCRA Board member.
UTOPIA, Texas – A $10,636 grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority and Bandera Electric Cooperative will allow Utopia Volunteer Emergency Medical Services to purchase three new handheld radios to help ensure reliable communications in the area’s large, rural service area.
The grant, along with $2,659 in matching funds from the EMS, will allow Utopia Volunteer EMS to equip the four medics operating its two ambulances with state-of-the-art communications.
Founded in 1979, Utopia Volunteer EMS provides emergency medical ground transport for a 457-square-mile area that includes parts of Bandera, Uvalde, Real and Medina counties. Given the challenges posed by their vast service area, the EMS medics rely heavily on clear radio communication. To that end, the organization has begun to upgrade its cache of 20 5-watt handheld radios, most 10 to 15 years old, to newer, more reliable 6-watt models.
“There are portions of our response area where radio communication is limited by both distance and terrain,’’ said Doug Carlyle, president of Utopia Volunteer EMS. “In a few locations, there is no radio communication or any cell phone service.’’
He said the lack of reliable communication was an issue at the scene of a tragic bus accident near Concan in March 2017 that claimed 13 lives.
“Since that horrible event, Utopia Volunteer EMS has added satellite photos to both ambulances so that we will never be without communication of some kind, and we have begun an incremental changeover to a newer model of handheld radio,” Carlyle said.
In addition to providing service to Utopia and its vicinity, medics also frequently respond to calls at nearby Garner State Park and Lost Maples State Natural Area.
The community grant is one of a number of grants recently awarded through LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program, which provides economic development and community assistance grants to cities, counties, volunteer fire departments, regional development councils and other nonprofit organizations in LCRA’s wholesale electric and water service areas. The program is part of LCRA’s effort to give back to the communities it serves. Bandera Electric Cooperative is one of LCRA’s wholesale electric customers and a partner in the grant program.
Applications for the next round of grants will be accepted from Jan. 1-31, 2020. More information is available at LCRA.org/CDPP.