Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is RedSTAR needed?

RedSTAR fills a gap that exists between the Red River Gorge’s local volunteer Search and Rescue (SAR)  teams and the local Emergency Medical Service (EMS) agencies. Because the SAR teams aren’t EMS agencies, they’re legally prohibited from providing care beyond the level of first aid. And because the EMS agencies aren’t SAR teams, they’ve historically declined to allow their employees to hike miles through the woods or to rappel over cliffs to treat patients.

RedSTAR does both of those things. As an EMS unit trained and equipped for SAR operations and rope rescue, we can enter the woods and go over the edge of cliffs to begin treating patients exactly where they’ve become injured or ill. And because we operate as a unit of Powell County Ambulance Service under Physician medical direction, we can do so much more than basic first aid.

We can provide IV fluids and pain management, perform emergency airway procedures, initiate advanced trauma care, use sophisticated diagnostics to identify specific illnesses and injuries, and administer an extensive range of prescription medications. Our advanced treatments include protocols for Ketamine, TXA, dislocation reductions, chest decompressions, and push-dose pressors for anaphylaxis- just to name a few!

2. Is RedSTAR a Search and Rescue team?

No. In Kentucky, Search and Rescue (SAR) teams are regulated by the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management and are chartered to perform specific types of non-firefighting and non-EMS services as their primary missions, such as vehicle extrication, ground searching, and rope rescue. Fire and EMS agencies might provide those services as secondary missions, which is how RedSTAR is structured: we’re an EMS unit, regulated by the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services, whose primary mission is to provide advanced, high quality medical care in the wilderness. We maintain proficiency in SAR and rope rescue so that we can work safely in those settings.

3. What is the legal basis for RedSTAR?

RedSTAR is the special operations unit of the Powell County, KY Ambulance Service; in short, we’re simply a specialized group of volunteers within an existing EMS agency. We were authorized to operate by a vote of the Powell County Fiscal Court on August 18th, 2017, after a two-year development process.

4. What’s the difference between First Aid and Advanced Life Support?

First Aid is a collection of basic skills designed to correct immediately life threatening conditions, like applying direct pressure to control bleeding and using simple manual maneuvers to open a patient’s airway. It’s an important set of skills, but it’s very limited. Advanced Life Support (ALS) is a range of complex skills and therapies delivered under Physician oversight by Paramedics and Nurses, assisted by EMTs. ALS providers can start IV’s, intubate, attempt to re-inflate collapsed lungs, interpret data from advanced diagnostic tools to determine the precise nature of a patient’s problem, perform minor surgical procedures, and administer a wide range of medications to treat pain, allergies, shock, difficulty breathing, metabolic emergencies, thermal emergencies, cardiac conditions….and more!

RedSTAR is an ALS team; we bring Physician-level care to the patient, wherever they are in the Red River Gorge.

6. Can RedSTAR respond to wilderness calls in other counties besides Powell?

Yes! We exist to provide medical support to the operations of the Powell County Search and Rescue Team, but we can respond to calls in other counties when officials in those counties specifically request our services. SAR officials in Wolfe, Menifee, Lee, or other counties must simply call Powell County 911 Dispatch to request a RedSTAR response, and we will respond when we have units available to do so!

5. How is RedSTAR funded?

RedSTAR is supported at a basic level by the Powell County Fiscal Court through in-kind donations of building space, use of vehicles, and administrative support. Moreover, when patients are transported to an Emergency Room by a Powell County EMS ambulance, the patient’s insurance is charged for that care and our costs are subsidized by those reimbursements. But those reimbursements are insufficient, and Powell County is an economically challenged community. Accordingly, as a volunteer unit we must pay our own way beyond those basic forms of support from the Powell County government.

To do so, we rely on grants and donations made to RedSTAR, Inc to sustain our high-quality lifesaving operations. It is important to note the difference between the RedSTAR response unit, which is merely a unit of Powell County EMS, and RedSTAR, Inc, which is an independent Kentucky non-profit corporation formed to raise funds for the provision of high quality wilderness medical care in the Red River Gorge. The PCEMS RedSTAR unit is the primary recipient of those funds.