4 medics from Florence to compete for state title

March 14, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – Four medics with Florence County EMS will compete this week for the honor of being deemed the best in the state – a unique situation for the agency.

The competition runs through Saturday.

Normally each EMS region in the state competes to send two medics to the South Carolina Emergency Medical Services Network in Myrtle Beach for the competition, and then the previous year’s champions get to attempt to defend their title.

Last year’s champions, paramedics Chris Hatfield and Andrew Herring, are Florence County medics, and their competition from the Pee Dee will be paramedics Katie Horton and Alex Watson.

They will compete against teams from Spartanburg EMS, Lancaster County EMS and Dorchester County EMS.

“Having four of our best paramedics on the stage in Myrtle Beach this year is a feather in the cap of Florence County EMS,” Chief Ryon Watkins said. “Our medics will have the opportunity to showcase their skills, and they will have fun while they’re doing it.”

Watkins said he “could not be more proud of these paramedics and their accomplishments. Florence County is blessed to have paramedics of this caliber caring for the ill and injured in our communities.”

Hatfield said last year was the first time he had participated in the state competition, but he had done many others around the area, and last year’s scenario was ideally suited to what he does with Florence County EMS.

“My partner and I are both tactical medics for the SWAT team; we’re on special operations,” Hatfield said. “The scenario was an active shooter situation, so it was something we train for day in and day out with the sheriff’s office. It kind of worked in to something we’re familiar with and used to doing.”

Hatfield and Herring have competed as a team for seven years. They participated in other competitions before they made a run at the state title.

“In the competition realm, there are only a select few who want to do competitions, get out on stage in front of 200 to 300 people and put their skills on show,” Hatfield said. “Usually we know everybody we’re competing against. It’s almost like a reunion, because we know everybody who’s already there.”

Herring said it was a good thing to have some of their competition come from within the agency.

“I’m glad,” said Herring, who has been competing for 10 years. “Have somebody step up to the plate and challenge us and give us something to look forward to.

“With only five teams going from across the state, two out of those teams are Florence County teams, so that’s a good thing.”

This is Watson’s first year with Florence, but it is not his first year in competition.

“I competed against Chris and Andrew once before with another service (Cheraw Rescue Squad),” he said.

“We’re going to have to be excellent. They’re good at their job. They’ve done it a long time, and they know exactly how competitions work and exactly how to treat patients. We can’t go in there and make small or careless mistakes if we want to stand a good chance against them, or any of the other teams competing. They’re all excellent teams.”

Win, lose or draw, Watson said, the competition is a learning experience that will make team members better at their jobs.

Horton is no stranger to competition, though this is her first year when she’s one of the ones earning points.

“I’ve worked with competitions, helping out with Pee Dee region helping them out for several years,” she said. “I’ve helped to set up scenarios, I’ve been patients, I’ve watched other teams including Hatfield and their team compete for several years.

“I was asked to help a friend out to compete for the regionals. He needed a partner, so I volunteered. We won that.”

The competition will be a scenario that medics are likely to encounter.

“Everything is point based, from your professionalism and attitude to demeanor, dress, the way you interact with your partner, your patients, everything is points,” Horton said.

“We’re going to take their title. We’re not even trying. We’re going to take their title.”