Trauma victims in central Ohio receive more efficient and uniform emergency treatment thanks in part to the efforts of Capt. Vince Papa, who retired April 19 from the Norwich Township Fire Department after almost 28 years of service.
In addition to being the EMS coordinator for Norwich Township, Papa served as chairman of the EMS Committee for the Central Ohio Association of Fire Chiefs.
Papa collaborated with fire chiefs, hospitals and trauma centers for the 18 counties nearest to central Ohio, establishing protocols for diversion policies, "safe haven" programs for newborn children and regional infection control guidelines, among other policies and procedures that local fire departments and districts adopted.
"It was supposed to be a two-year commitment," Papa said of his acceptance in 1992 to represent Norwich Township on the regional EMS committee for fire chiefs.
Twenty-one years later, Papa stepped down as chairman of the committee at the same time he retired from active service.
Unlike many firefighters, Papa did not follow a father or a brother into the ranks of firefighting, but, he said, it was something he knew he wanted to do since childhood.
Papa, 47, and a 1983 graduate of Westerville South High School, said he knew he wanted to be a fireman from the time he saw red fire trucks rushing down the road.
"From that point on, my decision was made," Papa said.
Papa began his career a part-time firefighter for the Grandview Heights fire department, serving from 1983 to 1986.
He joined the Westerville Division of Fire as a part-time firefighter in 1984 and worked there on off days until 1997.
He was still working part time in Grandview and Westerville when he became a Norwich Township firefighter July 8, 1985. He said learned about an opening in the Norwich department while investigating a fire in the Shire Cove area of Hilliard.
Papa was promoted to lieutenant in 1991 at Norwich Township, and promoted to captain in 2001.
He was named EMS coordinator in 1990 at a time when not every firefighter also was a medic. Today, almost all firefighters also are medics.
As EMS coordinator for both Norwich Township and for the association of fire chiefs, Papa began an effort to standardize the response of fire departments and districts, including the use of the then new technology of 800-megahertz radios.
"Sometimes there was not good organization at (emergency) scenes where multiple agencies are responding," Papa said.
An example of protocol today at a scene is establishing which responding departments are responsible for triage, treatment and transportation, said Papa, who has a doctorate in health care administration from Kennedy Western University, a brick-and-mortar school that has since closed its doors.
"Today, there is protocol among all departments concerning the assessment of a patient and treatments for identical illnesses or injuries," he said.
During the nearly three decades Papa has been a Norwich firefighter, he said he did not recall any particular patient, but rather viewed "every run as equally important."
Papa said he appreciated the community for its support and the countless number of people who thanked him on the street or visited the station to thank him and others for the services provided to family members and friends.
Papa's friends and co-workers thanked him during a retirement party April 19 at the Norwich Township Joint Safety Services Building.
"I'll miss the camaraderie of my co-workers ... we're a tight-knit group," said Papa, adding retirement came a little earlier than he desired as health issues hastened his decision.
Among those Papa said he would miss working with is Scott Skeldon, fire chief of the Jerome Township Division of Fire in Plain City.
Skeldon was a Norwich firefighter from 1985 to 2000 and also worked with Papa as a member of the EMS committee for area fire chiefs.
"He was Mr. EMS for central Ohio and the go-to guy for just about anything," Skeldon said.
"(Papa) was Mr. EMS for central Ohio and the go-to guy for just about anything."
-- SCOTT SKELDON
Jerome Township fire chief