Mark Falender, Emergency Management Coordinator at AVH, and Gabe Muething, Chief of Emergency Medical Services for the Aspen Ambulance District, provide insights into how the two organizations work together — and with other local agencies — to handle crises in the community.
Can you describe the partnership between Aspen Ambulance and Aspen Valley Hospital and its Network of Care?
“Aspen Ambulance is a Pitkin County service managed by Aspen Valley Hospital,” Muething said. “This arrangement is quite unique, and the collaboration has many advantages. Ambulances usually provide advanced emergency care and then hand off patients to an emergency room of a hospital and never see them again. However, our responders will stay in the emergency room to assist. Additionally, if a patient needs to be moved to another facility, we are the same ones who transport them to a specialty care center. This alliance fosters continuity of care, and that is invaluable.”
What types of emergencies does Aspen Ambulance respond to?
“We respond to a range of medical and trauma incidents from a resident experiencing chest pains or a skiing injury to allergic reactions and plane crashes,” Muething said. “And due to the large tourist population, we sometimes treat illness and disease from other parts of the world. Most communities don’t experience the wide variety of emergencies we do. We have to be ready for absolutely anything.”
How does AVH prepare for major crises?
“Every two years, we perform a hazard vulnerability assessment of more than 100 potential emergencies,” Falender said. “We rank the hazards from most to least likely. We then put detailed plans in place for situations that happen most often, like power outages. This way, our response to these events is routine, and the event doesn’t develop into a crisis. If it’s something that historically doesn’t happen often, like a wildfire approaching the Hospital, we create response policies and go through a series of exercises to finetune our procedures. It’s a thorough and comprehensive process.”
We go beyond traditional emergency response in our commitment to keeping our community safe.
Can you describe a particularly difficult rescue Aspen Ambulance encounters?
“We often treat people who have sustained an injury in a more remote or difficult to access area. A good example would be Grottos Ice Cave area on Independence Pass,” Muething said. “It’s a difficult and complex rescue but we regularly respond to these incidents and get the injured to safety.”
How does Aspen Valley Hospital coordinate services with other community agencies?
“The type of emergency dictates the agencies we work with, whether it’s the fire department, police department or Mountain Rescue,” Falender said. “And almost always, no matter the incident, we call Aspen Ambulance to assist. We are lucky they are right next door. Additionally, the Pitkin County Incident Management Team plays a vital role in coordination. During emergencies, they prioritize requests, so efforts aren’t duplicated, and every agency gets the resources they need.”
Besides emergency response, what other services does Aspen Ambulance offer to the community?
“We go beyond traditional emergency response in our commitment to keeping our community safe,” Muething said. “We also focus on prevention, education, emergency management and medical support for special events such as the Winter X Games and the Aspen Backcountry Marathon. It’s a pleasure to serve this community, and we are so grateful for the funding and support we receive. It’s what keeps us in operation and motivates us to be the best.”
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