When going to college, David Jones thought he wanted to work in the computer field. However, that quickly changed.
Jones, 47, changed his mind about computers and became an EMT, which eventually led him to the city of Jacksonville, where he is the EMS operations supervisor for the Jacksonville Fire Department.
“I had originally gone to college as a computer-science major,” Jones said. “I was there for a year and decided that is not really what I wanted to do. My dad had been a firefighter and EMT, so I decided I wanted to do that, too.”
Jones, who has worked for the Jacksonville Fire Department in a variety of capacities since 1999, was named EMS Administrator of the Year by the Arkansas EMT Association during its annual banquet in Hot Springs on Aug. 4.
“Evidently, my fire chief, [Alan Laughy], had put me up for the award,” said Jones, who has been a captain in the department for several years. “Even though I’m on the board for the Arkansas EMT Association, I did not know I was getting that award until they announced it that night at the banquet. [The board] did a pretty good job of hiding that from me. I thought it was kind of strange because I didn’t hear about it until that night. That same night, our medical director, [Dr. Darren Flamik], got Medical Director of the Year.
“Yes, I was stunned.”
Laughy said Jones has done an “outstanding job” as EMS operations supervisor.
“I don’t think there is anyone more deserving in the state,” Laughy said. “He’s worked extremely hard. He’s designed an ambulance we should receive in the next month or two, along with another ambulance we should receive around summertime 2019.”
Laughy said Jones has a clear vision of how an ambulance service should be run, especially since the city of Jacksonville is the only city in Pulaski County with its own EMS service.
“I’ve never run an ambulance service,” Laughy said. “He’s got almost 30 years’ experience as a paramedic. When I got hired on as chief in 2013, I knew I needed a guy who was an expert on the subject matter.
“[Jones] was my guy.”
While being surprised about getting the award, Jones said, he was proud to receive it.
“It’s a validation of hard work that I’m actually being recognized for contributing to the state,” he said. “It takes a lot of personal time. I go to a lot of meetings. We feel here [in Jacksonville] that we’re not just one town where we excel at some stuff. We want to help others. We work with other local departments. We work with anybody in the state that needs help. Part of my job is to attend these meetings and to contribute where I can.”
In addition to Jones and Flamik, several others from Jacksonville were honored at the banquet. Austin Clevenger, Payton Sullivan and Bobby Tarno competed in the fire and EMS competition, getting second place. Clevenger and Tarno finished third in the paramedic competition. Those competitions were held at the Arkansas EMT Association Conference.
Jones, who is in charge of the EMS program in Jacksonville, which includes three ambulances, said the department and other departments around are all working toward the same goal.
“We feel like we might get an award or two, but we’re no different than anyone else out there who is trying to do the same thing — provide the best service possible and help everybody along the way that we can,” he said.
Jones graduated from Malvern High School in 1989. After he decided not to major in computer science, he got into the emergency medical field.
“There was a firetruck parked in my yard when I was 7,”
he said. “My dad was one of the founding members of the South Malvern Volunteer Fire Department. They didn’t have a place to keep the truck, so it got parked in our driveway.”
After leaving college, Jones started working for an EMT service in Texarkana while attending paramedic school at National Park Community College in Hot Springs.
“I realized I was going to be trapped inside a lot,” Jones said, referring to working on computers. They wanted you to learn all this programming junk. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to work on them. I had done that a lot in high school. That had piqued my interest. I had really good computer teachers in high school. We did a lot of neat things. I thought I would enjoy it a lot more when I was in college.
“But I wanted to help people. Going through the EMT class was the next step, then the paramedic class.”
“My first day as a paramedic on an ambulance was in Pine Bluff on Jan. 15, 1993,” Jones said.
Prior to coming to Jacksonville, Jones worked for a private ambulance service in southeast Arkansas around Dermott, Lake Village and Eudora.
“I was working for a private service as an assistant regional manager,” he said. “I saw an ad in the paper for Jacksonville. I applied and got hired.”
Jones was hired as a firefighter and paramedic. He attended the Arkansas Fire Training Academy in Camden for eight weeks.
After seven years in Jacksonville, Jones was promoted to lieutenant, then to captain in 2011.
“In 2011, I became the training officer for the Fire Department,” Jones said. “I got promoted to captain at the same time. While I was working on my last college degree, which is in operations management, I had to use something that measured profit-loss margin and also had a customer-service aspect to it. I did a lot of studies on the ambulance service and how we operate. That led me to getting moved over.”
Jones’ current position as EMS operations supervisor was created in February 2015.
“We created a full-time spot for operations supervisor,” he said. “Before then, it was being managed by a battalion chief and two people part time. We realized that we were really needing someone to manage the ambulance-service aspect, so I got put over that.”
When Jones started in Jacksonville, he said, the ambulance department was averaging about 1,200 calls a year. A year ago, the department had 4,322 calls.
In addition to being the EMS operations manager, Jones is also the safety officer and public-information officer for the department.
“I wasn’t really sure about being the training officer at one point,” Jones said. “I got talked into that for both fire and EMS. Now that I’m over EMS, I still do a lot of training hours for the department, too.”
Jones has a number of certifications and college degrees.
“I can’t tell you the number of classes I’ve had,” he said. “Certificatewise, it’s probably 40 or more.”
He has an associate degree in fire-science management from Southern Arkansas University Tech in Camden; a bachelor’s degree in education in human workforce development from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville; and a master’s degree in operational management from the University of Arkansas. He got his last degree in December 2014.
Jones’ duties require him to go to structure fires and major car wrecks.
“I’m pretty much on call 24/7,” he said. “I have a take-home vehicle, and I respond to fires after I go home at night. I live here in the city, so that makes it a little bit easier. If I’m home and I hear them going out on a bad wreck, where it’s going to take up a lot of resources, or it’s on the highway and it’s going to have safety concerns, I’ll come out for that.”
Jones can also still enter burning buildings but hasn’t done that in a few years.
“It’s been awhile where I actually had to use my turnouts,” he said. “I’m usually out observing the scene, making sure everyone is doing everything safely. There is no need for me to go in. If there is a need for me to go in, something has gone wrong.
“I’m very confident with the people I work with. If it wasn’t for all them, there would be no need for me or for what I do.”
Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or email@example.com.