DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN)– Sunday kicks off EMS week here in Ohio and the Greater Miami Valley EMS Council is celebrating 50 years of service. The council is one of Ohio’s oldest and strongest regional EMS associations founded in 1972. This week marks their 50th anniversary, reflecting on many lessons learned and challenges along the way.

“The changes in 50 years is almost too monumental to imagine,” said Former Council President David Gerstner. “50 years ago there were no protocols, we didn’t really have paramedics in this region and the idea of paramedics was just getting started nationally.”

EMS in Ohio has evolved into four levels, Emergency Medical Responders, EMTs on ambulances, advanced EMTs and Paramedics. Over the course of 50 years, the council has served through multiple pandemics including COVID-19, a time when society was encouraged to stay indoors EMS was still responding to calls.

“The stressors were there, a lot of folks were isolating when they got home at the end of the day and that added stress,” said Council President Chris Marker. “It’s had a toll on everyone.”

In his 36 years of service, Marker believes current EMS across the country is suffering from a major staffing shortage unlike before.

“Departments all over the region are posting for open positions multiple times over the year, it’s something in 36 of EMS I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Marker.

The culture around EMS has thrived for 50 years here in the Miami Valley due to one thing, the community’s support.

“We work together very well,” said Gerstner. “It’s our hospital, EMS agencies, people, all of us. Council has been here for 50 years because of collaboration.”

Two different billboards will be up Monday to honor EMS Week. One is near I-75 southbound in Moraine and the other is near U.S 35 westbound at Steve Whalen Boulevard. EMS Week extends from May 15th to May 23rd.