Gaston County covers 364.5 square miles with a combination of the rural and urban populations totaling approximately 211,000. Gaston County EMS (GEMS) responds to approximately 48,000 requests for EMS service annually.
GEMS deployment consists of 9 Paramedic ambulances, 4 dedicated Quick Response Vehicles (QRV), and 2 supervisory QRVs assigned to EMS stations located throughout Gaston County to provide 24-hour Advanced Life Support coverage. GEMS primary 24-hour, 7-day weekly coverage is supplemented by a Rescue Support Unit (RSU), equipped for "Heavy Rescue and Special Operations" that is staffed by Paramedics with Advanced Technical Rescue training that respond to motor vehicle accidents and incidents requiring technical rescue response.
GEMS utilizes System Status Management to maintain the efficient EMS unit coverage by moving available units to strategic locations, or "Posts," as calls for service are received. System Status Management has helped decrease response times and helped maximize service coverage.
In addition to GEMS, Gaston County's EMS System is supplemented by 4 Volunteer Rescue Squads that provide Rescue and Ambulance services. Gaston County Rescue Squads also provide valuable support during large-scale incidents and response to disasters.
GEMS was the first EMS organization within the State of North Carolina to achieve national accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS). CAAS accreditation is a thorough process of evaluation and measurement of an organization against a set of objective, National Standards designed for the EMS industry. GEMS achieved this "Gold Standard" in July of 1995.
Since achieving CAAS accreditation, GEMS has received recognition locally and nationally by hosting visits from other agencies seeking accreditation. GEMS is currently serving as a resource to several agencies across the nation and within the State of North Carolina in their pursuit of the "Gold Standard" of CAAS accreditation.
GEMS Innovations & Recognition
GEMS perpetually searches for ways to enhance the medical care and treatment that we provide to our patients. By constantly monitoring and evaluating the methods and protocols in use by our own personnel and the current methods and protocols within the industry, we bring the most advanced treatment modalities to the patients we serve. The result is an advanced set of medical protocols and invasive skills designed to enhance the delivery of our medical care and provide the highest quality of emergency and non-emergency medical service in a pre-hospital setting. GEMS has received recognition for some of the programs and methods employed in the field.
GEMS Special Operations Teams
GEMS is a progressive "Public Safety" organization that provides efficient emergency and non-emergency medical care and transportation in a wide variety of services designed to "Reach," "Assess," "Treat," and "Transport" patients. GEMS staff constantly search for innovative methods of EMS service delivery that enhance public safety.
GEMS Special Operations Teams work to accomplish this mission by training and preparing for disaster response, large scale incident management, specialized tactical EMS and Rescue operations, Firefighter rehabilitation and Hazardous Materials Operations support, support to SWAT operations for law enforcement, and support for evacuation shelter management.
Special Operations Teams
- S.T.A.R. Team
- Dive Rescue and Recovery Team
- Swift Water Rescue Team
- State Medical Assistance Team (SMAT)
- Bomb Medics Team
- Tactical Medics Team
- Bicycle Emergency Response Team
- Honor Guard
- GEMS Explorers
GEMS Medium Duty Freightliner Ambulance
As a progressive service, GEMS is a leader in its field when it comes to equipment. The latest in GEMS fleet of Freightliners is the Business Class M2 made in the county in which GEMS serves. The Mount Holly Freightliner plant created this truck to be more ergonomic for the crew using bigger bucket-type seats and suspension that rides like a car rather than a truck. The switch to medium-duty Freightliners was made to not only give the paramedics ample space in which to work but also to give the service more life out of their ambulances. The life span of an ambulance went from 150,000 miles in the Ford F350 to 250,000 miles in the new Mercedes 4.5 liter engine.
GEMS Community Service
GEMS actively participates and supports community education through a diverse variety of Educational Services. Some of these services include Bicycle Rodeos to promote bicycle safety sponsored by the GEMS Bicycle Emergency Response Team (B.E.R.T.), the GEMS Citizens Academy which promotes EMS to adults, the "Paramedic Challenge and EMS Quest for young adults and children, layperson CPR to raise awareness of the cardiac disease and help promote early intervention, and many other various stand-by and demonstration activities to serve and educate the public.
GEMS will continue to progress into one of the premiere EMS organizations in the nation using state-of-the-art equipment, hiring the best-qualified people, and serving their county with the utmost in professionalism.
History of GEMS
The Mission of Gaston County Emergency Medical Services (GEMS) is to preserve and enhance the quality of life for the residents and visitors of Gaston County by providing timely, superior quality, cost-effective field medical care and transportation and collaborative public safety preparedness and operations, including comprehensive rescue response and support, and public education.
We step-up the commitment with our Vision by stating that "We will be the premier EMS provider in the State of North Carolina, as demonstrated by our quality of personnel; quality and depth of training; scope of medical treatment capabilities; patient outcome and efficacy of intervention; technology, quality, and readiness of equipment; timeliness of response; operational efficiency and innovation; scope of preparedness; collaborative, mutual response and support of allied public agencies; CAAS accreditation; customer service; public education, prevention, and perception; community involvement; participation in EMS research studies; regional EMS response; long term organizational performance, improvement, and survival; relative cost and value of service; and self-generated funding.
These two statements provide a broad outline for what we, at GEMS, believe is our duty, responsibility, and commitment to our community and patrons. We feel that we demonstrate these values with the highest levels of dedication and teamwork, and we continue to work to enhance and improve our abilities and our education in the field.
GEMS began on January 20, 1982 out of the need for a non-emergency transport service for hospital and doctor's office transports. Up until that time, eight rescue squads, staffed completely by volunteers, handled both the emergency and non-emergency calls in Gaston County. By 1982 the volume of non-emergency transports had become more than the local volunteers could handle, and they went to the Gaston County Commissioners and ask for help. Their request was honored, and Gaston County Medical Transport (GCMT) was born. The service began with six field staff at the EMT level working Monday through Friday handling non-emergency transports. This soon changed. The results of long response times and fewer volunteers being able to respond to calls during the day resulted in GCMT's being dispatched on more and more emergencies. The volunteers soon found that the training demands of EMS, along with their availability and the increasing call volume in Gaston County, were taking their toll. GCMT had seen a doubling in call volume as the emergency calls grew, and in October 1982 the service expanded, more than doubling in size.
The changes in pre-hospital medicine in Gaston County were evident to many. The medical community saw for the first time the beginnings of pre-hospital professionals and recognized that the general public could benefit from their knowledge, training, and skills. Early in 1984 the medical community, along with the ED staff at Gaston Memorial Hospital, set in motion the advancement of GCMT by training the staff in EPI 1-1000 to be used for anaphylaxis. The training continued in the fall of 1984 with MAST training, and the benefits to the citizens of the county continued to grow. The advancements continued in 1985, and the first-ever EMT-Intermediate class was offered. GCMT continued to grow and expand, and in July of 1986 Gaston County Medical Transport began offering EMT-Intermediate care to the citizens of the county. The training didn't stop then, and immediately following the EMT-I advancement, the service began paramedic training. The ED staff at Gaston Memorial Hospital began a three-day-a-week paramedic class, and the GCMT staff found itself in a no holds-bared rapid-fire training program. The clinical rotations were just as fast, and all was done with military precision. The goal was to get 8 of the employees certified at the EMT-P level and then bring those 8 back to precept the rest of the employees. On July 1, 1987, a mere four and a half years after the first employee walked in the door, GCMT underwent a major change. The first EMT-Paramedic checked on-duty in Gaston County and the service changed its name to Gaston County Emergency Medical Services (GEMS).