Dawn Rae is the community health care paramedic for the Challis Area Health Center. Her position is new at the clinic. She leads EMS efforts, among other things.

It’s National EMS Week and Challis Area Health Center officials are reminding the public about the value of volunteering in this small community.

Dawn Rae, community health care paramedic, and health center Executive Director Steve Rembelski say this year’s theme for the week of “Beyond the Call,” is a reaffirmation of the connection emergency medical services volunteers have with their communities.

“It’s a commitment to the community,” Rae said.

Volunteers really are always needed, they said. Currently, 15 people volunteer with the Challis ambulance service and bring differing levels of training to their posts.

“We can always use more volunteers,” Rae said. While most ambulance volunteers have EMT training, some who only drive the ambulances may not be trained as EMTs. People don’t need to come to the table with any particular experience or training to volunteer. They undergo a background check and are expected to complete either an EMT training class or another type of emergency training class. Ambulance volunteers are asked to sign up for a minimum of 48 hours a month of on-call time. People can sign up for short stretches of time — a few hours — to reach that 48 hours if that works for them, she said. The goal is to have two EMTs and a physician’s assistant on call all of the time. Volunteers receive a stipend for every call they respond to.

Perhaps the most important criteria for a volunteer, Rae said, “is a real desire to help people.” A calming demeanor and the ability to multi-task are helpful, too. Ambulance volunteers must be willing to help people “on the worst day of their lives,” she said.

Recertification is required every other year. It’s provided in Challis at no expense to the volunteers. Ongoing monthly training takes place, about one hour per month in the evening.

Some volunteers sign up for more than 48 hours per month. That number of hours ensures that volunteers keep their skill levels high, Rembelski said. All of the physician’s assistants at the health center take turns on ambulance duty. They all underwent ambulance-based clinician training before they began that work because working in an ambulance differs from working in a medical facility.

To learn more about volunteering, people should call Rae at 208-879-3054 or email her at

An EMT training class was recently completed in Challis. Rae and Rembelski hope to offer a class every year, as long as people want to participate. The course runs for three months, so people have to be willing to commit some time, Rae said. Exactly when the next class will be scheduled hasn’t been determined, she said, but if enough people were interested now, she’d start a class soon.

Rembelski likes to remind people that Challis is their home, their community, and that should be incentive to volunteer.

“It’s our community, our friends, neighbors and family. It requires someone to step up and own this,” he said. The health center’s commitment to meeting the medical needs of the community is bolstered by the fact that the clinic created Rae’s position, Rembelski said.

Challis has an impressive array of volunteers who help provide high-quality care, Rae said. Last year, Challis ambulance volunteers responded to 287 calls. While not a huge number, Rae points out that “every call impacts a person. That call is the most important call (EMTs) are going on.”

The local ambulance area stretches beyond Challis to Elk Bend, Torrey’s Burnt Creek Inn, Willow Creek and the Pahsimeroi. Two ambulances are based at the clinic. Volunteers respond to the clinic to get an ambulance and go to the patient.

Rae is available to offer various types of emergency training to groups who are interested, for example in hands-only CPR, or to speak to clubs or organizations about local EMS services and needs or about general health education. Her addition to the staff is allowing the health center to become more active at outreach efforts, Rembelski said.