Delaware County EMS Chief Rob Farmer used to brag that his agency was one of the best in the state.

Delaware County EMS Chief Rob Farmer used to brag that his agency was one of the best in the state.

Now, thanks to the national endorsement his department has received, it's not just bragging anymore.

The county EMS was designated a Gold Standard agency by the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services, receiving a perfect 250 score on its review. It became only the fourth of 1,332 EMS agencies in Ohio to earn the Gold Standard.

The county department was awarded the recognition after a comprehensive self-study, formal application and review, and a two-day on-site evaluation and verification by a team of national experts in emergency medical services.

"We began the accreditation process back in 2008," said Farmer. "It took a lot of time and a lot of hard work to prepare the department. Not that we weren't doing a great job to begin with, but CAAS demands documentation, quality assurance, accountability."

Farmer described the long process of accreditation as "bottoms up" and credited all 140 full- and part-time employees with the perfect score.

"After we submitted all of our documentation, CAAS assessed it and came up with a list of questions that they wanted to have answered -- things they wanted to look at when they came on their two-day visit," Farmer said. "They arrived with three people: an EMS physician and two EMS administrators. They were from all over the country. They visited every station, talked to all of our employees, got inside and touched every truck in our fleet. They visited the service center where we maintain our vehicles. They met with human resources.

"We opened ourselves completely to evaluation from the bottom to the top."

Delaware County Commissioner Dennis Stapleton said the perfect accreditation score was reassuring "because what it really means is that the residents of our county are receiving the best pre-hospital care delivered by the most well-trained professionals in their field."

Though CAAS accreditation is usually given for one year, the county EMS' perfect score earned it two additional years of accreditation, which now expires June 30, 2015.

How does Farmer plan to improve on a perfect score?

"We've joked about that in our conversations with the commissioners -- that when we go back for re-accreditation in three years, we've set the bar pretty high," Farmer said. "But with CAAS it's not a question of, 'It's you guys again -- where's your money?' They'll want to see all the things we've done to maintain our level of performance.

"The way the system works, you can't buff up and then slack off and then buff up again. We'll have to maintain our level of quality."