Mark McManaman, administrator of Emergency and Medical Services for Pratt County has retired after 40 years of service to the people of Pratt County in Emergency and Medial Services and as fire chief of Township 12 fire department.

Mark McManaman, administrator of Emergency and Medical Services for Pratt County, has been answering the call to help people in need in the county for 40 years. Whether as a paramedic or as the fire chief of Township 12, McManaman has rushed to the aid of countless men, women and children.

Now, that mantle of responsibility will fall to someone else as McManaman retires. A retirement reception was held Friday, Jan. 12 at the Pratt Community Center. It was a time for him to reflect on his career as a first responder in Pratt.

Although his career has been as a first responder, he started out working in a gas station as a auto mechanic.

McManaman grew up in Pratt and graduated from Pratt High School in 1975 then got a degree in automotive technology from Pratt Community College in 1977. He went to work at Carl Reed's Standard station at First and Main that is now the First United Methodist Church parking lot. His duties included working on cars and working in the drive pumping gas and cleaning windows. For this young man, it was a pretty good job, one he liked a lot.

"I enjoyed that job. I didn't mine it at all," McManaman said.

But there was an influence in his life that would shift his career in an entirely different direction. McManaman's father, Basil (Bud) McManaman, was one of the first EMTs in Pratt County and in the state. That influence push him towards being a first responder.

He worked at the Pratt Hospital in the mechanic division from 1979 to 1981. At the same time, he took the EMT course at Pratt Community College and got his EMT certificate in late 1979 or early 1980.

Starting in 1978, he also worked at the Township 12 Fire Department and part time for EMS. In 1981 McManaman became director for Pratt County EMS and Township 12 Fire Chief.

Communication for emergency responders was much different than it is today. Each fire fighter had an alerting phone (pagers didn't exist at that time) and when a fire call came in, the dispatcher would call the fire fighters and tell them where the fire was located.

Then came a single frequency low band receiver. The dispatcher would put out the fire call but a lot of times the fire fighters couldn't answer the dispatcher until they got to the station.

Vehicles were much different back then too. The EMS was located at 409 South Main with three vehicles inside the building, a 1979 Chevy box type ambulance, a 1975 Dodge Van and a 1976 Dodge Mini Modular that had a box but not nearly as big as the boxes now.

There were people at the EMS during the day but they would go home in the evening and be on call. If a call came in, the dispatcher would call the house and take it from there.

The 1979 Chevy had battery issues and it would run down if it wasn't used for some time. On more than one occasion, the crew had to push the Chevy out of the way so they could take another ambulance.

"You had to have muscles built up to push it out. We had to do that several times," McManaman said.

The EMS had defibrillators but they weighed from 70 to 80 pounds. In 1984, McManaman took his EMT intermediate training so he could administer IVs. In 1985, Pratt County EMS was part of the EMT-D pilot program that allowed the EMT to do defibrillation. The EMS bought 5 light pack defibrillators and put them in ambulances.

More and more improvements in equipment and vehicles followed for the next 20 years.

During that time, McManaman answered untold fire and medical calls. While each call was important, there were several that still have an impact on him today.

An accident claimed the lives of five members of a family from Liberal when their vehicle went out of control on an ice covered passing lane just west of Pratt, a Bombardier Jet crashed northwest of the Pratt Airport in 1993. They were doing test flights and there was a mechanical problem that caused the jet to crash.

The Pratt County tornado in 2002 and the Greensburg Tornado in 2007 were memorable events. But there have been many wrecks and storms and sick calls in his career and they were all important.

"I saw a little bit of everything," McManaman said.

McManaman also taught a lot of CPR classes to hundreds of students. He worked with Evelyn Hillard from the Red Cross to provide that training.

One of the biggest challenges for McManaman was keeping up with the advances in training. The EMS upgraded to Paramedics in the 1990s and that class earned an associates degree. McManaman took his Paramedic classes at Barton County Community College. They also had to do 60 hours of continuing education every two years.

Another big challenge was ambulance and building maintenance. They also put in a lot of radio repeater towers and Capt. Clayton Kessler helped a lot with that job.

"There was a wide range of things we did. We were also part time EMS on the rescue squad," McManaman said.

But most of all, McManaman liked helping the citizens of Pratt County in one way or the other. He said it was a group effort to work an accident with rescue and fire.

Working as a Paramedic and fire chief is stressful and 40 years have taken a toll.

"The last couple of years, it was working on me more and more all the time," McManaman said. "When the pager goes off in the middle of the night, I'm not moving quite as fast as I used to."

Lifting patients all those years have taken a toll too. He feels it in his hips, shoulders and back. Some days its pretty good but there are a lot of aches and pains.

As he ends this chapter of his life, McManaman will miss going to a training class and learning how to operate all the new equipment plus the advances in EMS and medical care.

"I enjoyed going to classes and working with people," McManaman said.

As for retirement, McManaman has several projects to keep him busy. He has three jeeps and an antique motorcycle we will continue to work on as well as check in his brother's cattle in the spring and summer. He also plans on doing more hunting and fishing, visiting with his brother and sister and their children in Great Bend. It seemed like he never had enough time to do that while he was working.

@GaleR_Tribune