Highland County EMS Coordinator Reflects on Time of Service and Excellence in EMS 2018 Award


Since 2014, Chris Vernovai has served as Highland County’s EMS Coordinator, the first position of its kind in the county.  He recently announced that his last day in the position will be in mid-September.  Allegheny Mountain Radio spoke with Mr. Vernovai about his time of service and future plans.

He says, “I was just recently offered a position with the State Office of EMS (OEMS) here in Virginia, and starting September 25th, I will be starting in that position as the State EMS Planner.  Highland County will definitely be greatly missed.  You know, I was really planning to stay here a much longer time, but different opportunities came along, and Highland County will definitely continue to hold a very strong place in my heart.”

Chris Vernovai’s decision comes just after some recent accolades.  At the August 7, 2018 meeting of the Highland County Board of Supervisors, he was recognized for receiving the Central Shenandoah EMS Council’s regional award, “Excellence in EMS 2018,” which was presented on June 6, 2018.  That award is open to an individual who exemplifies outstanding dedication and service to the statewide Virginia emergency medical services system, and has demonstrated a commitment to a comprehensive, integrated system of EMS throughout the Commonwealth.

“It was very surprising to me to actually have received this award.  I had no idea that I was nominated, let alone a recipient of it, so when they did call my name, it was rather humbling,” Mr. Vernovai explains with a laugh.  “It is based off of the Governor’s Awards, which is structured throughout the entire Commonwealth, and each of the eleven regions in Virginia has their own awards that they give, and then from there, it’ll move up to the Governor’s Award, which will be award on Saturday, November 10, 2018 at the State EMS Symposium at the awards’ banquet.  When it gets to the sate level, it’ll have up to eleven nominees for the Governor’s Award level.  The ‘Excellence in EMS’ is actually the highest one that you can obtain within the state of Virginia.”

Mr. Vernovai has an extensive list of credentials that contributed to his winning of the award.  You can view the press release that was read when he received the award at the website link of this news story posted on www.alleghenymountainradio.org.  Moving on, Mr. Vernovai has high remarks for members of the Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad.  He continues, “The volunteers that we have on the rescue squad, they’re very dedicated.  There’s a lot of hard work, a lot of perseverance that stays in there for us to continue to have that volunteer rescue squad, and the volunteer members need the community support, both in monetary to keep the doors open, keep the ambulances running down the road, but further more, they need the moral support.  They need that commitment behind the community to support them, so they can continue to support the community.  And everything that we’ve accomplished, whether it be what we’ve done locally or my receiving of this award, wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of our volunteers.  I firmly believe that if they continue the way they are going, that they very well can be the model rural agency for the Commonwealth, so I’m very proud of them and proud to consider myself part of their membership.”

Even with the new position, Chris Vernovai, and his wife, Dawn, plan to still be back and forth in the area.  He concludes, “For a time being, they don’t know how long I’ll be able to do it with the distance involved and everything, but I’ll try to run a few calls here and there when I’m in the area to still try to help out the community.  Again, I want to thank everybody in the community, especially our volunteers and the Board of Supervisors and the County Administrator for everything that they’ve been able to help us to accomplish here in Highland over the past years.  Everybody will be missed, but, again, we will be around, and we look forward to still seeing you and continuing to have our relationships with our fellow members and community members.  Thank you, everybody.”


The following is the text of the press release regarding Chris Vernovai’s, according to an email from Amanda McComas of the Central Shenandoah EMS Council to Highland County Administrator Roberta Lambert, sent on Monday, July 16, 2018.

Excellence In EMS 2018

Award Background

This is open to an individual who exemplifies outstanding dedication and service to the statewide Virginia emergency medical services system, and has demonstrated a commitment to a comprehensive, integrated system of emergency medical services throughout the Commonwealth.

Chris has shown an unwavering, endless source of commitment to his community as an EMS provider, educator, role model, community member, and volunteer. Throughout his 26 years as a Paramedic and firefighter, Chris has experienced many different aspects of EMS service. Having served at the local, regional, and federal level as both a volunteer and career provider, Chris understands that there is a common mission; to help those in need.

Chris is constantly challenged to recruit, retain, elevate morale, and motivate personnel to serve the Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad and the citizens of their community. Highland County covers approximately 416 square miles in an extremely rural area. Considering the nearest emergency facility is over an hour away, an EMS call for HCVRS requires an average of 4+ hours for the EMS volunteer, a unique challenge for any EMS Administrator. Since joining HCVRS in 2006, Chris has demonstrated a strong commitment to this community. He began as a volunteer member, graduated to the position of Captain, and now holds the position of the paid EMS employee of the county as the EMS Coordinator. Chris understands the special needs of rural EMS.

Growing the membership from a conservative handful to more than 30 active volunteers members requires a commitment to training and education. In addition to his duties as an administrator, Chris teaches EMT courses, continuing education, local protocols classes, and holds instructor certifications for EVOC, First Aid, CPR & AED, ACLS, and PALS. When does this man sleep?

His grant writing efforts have awarded HCVRS with more than $500,000 in funding for equipment and supplies. Most recently, recognizing the need for additional ALS support in his rural community, Chris procured and converted a BLS quick response vehicle into an ALS equipped vehicle for increased call response and efficiency.

As if his time is not cut short enough, Chris serves on the Virginia OEMS EMS Advisory Board Committee, Workforce Development, EMS Officer Subcommittee; as well as the Lead Instructor and Standards of Excellence Subcommittee. With the Central Shenandoah EMS Council, Chris serves on the Executive Board, Board of Directors, Medical Control Review Committee, Performance Improvement Committee, Recruitment & Retention Committee and Critical Stress Incident Management Team. He also serves on the Highland County LEPC, Bath County LEPC, the Highland County Fire Association as Treasurer, and the Highland Medical Center Board of Directors.

Story By

Chris Swecker

is the Assistant Station Coordinator and a News Reporter for WVLS. He has roots in Highland County going back several generations, and he grew up in Monterey. Since graduating from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, he has pursued his career at a news station and advertising agency in Virginia, on Microsoft’s campus in the state of Washington, and in both states as sole owner and employee of a video production company. He enjoys exploring life with his wife, Jessa Fowler, traveling, hiking, hunting, gardening, and trying new foods, all while discovering more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He feels blessed to be a small part of this talented AMR team to help give back to the community that has provided him with so much.

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