PALMER— Anything can happen at the Alaska State Fair, from cardiac arrest and broken bones, to dehydration and overdoses. That’s why a group of EMT volunteers are stationed on the fairgrounds on standby, ready to medically assist anyone at a moment’s notice.

Martin McKay is the president and chief of the Alaska Professional Volunteers, an independent, nonprofit group of EMS volunteers stationed at the fair each year. McKay said this marks 35 years for the group as the Alaska State Fair’s primary onsite medical service.

“The crazy thing about the fair is anything that could happen in EMS not on the fairgrounds, happens here too,” McKay said.

McKay said each year is different with so many types of medical emergencies. He said the sheer novelty of possibilities coupled with a high volume of people always keeps it interesting.

The group is active year-round, with weekly training exercises and monthly meetings to keep skills and knowledge fresh. McKay said they work at other events around the state as standby medics but the state fair is their biggest event of the year.

“It’s a really fun, interesting environment,” McKay said.

From rodeo competitions to motocross, they do it all. They’re the go-to medical standby crew for large scale events across the spectrum.

“Doing these standby events is a really fun way to plug into the community,” McKay said.

It’s not just injuries they have to look out for. There’s numerous ways a fairgoer could need their help. McKay said the fair has a way of bringing all kinds of people out of the woodwork, even ailing people who are typically homebound.

“You really get to see all sides of EMS here,” McKay said.

If someone forgets to take their medication and has an episode, the volunteers quickly assist them. If a patient needs to be evacuated from the fairgrounds to the hospital, crews help streamline the process, working hand in hand with the Mat-Su Valley first responders. He said the volunteers’ efforts help reduce some of the local EMT’s burden.

“Basically, we are able to take a lot of the call volume that would otherwise likely end up in the 911 system and take care of that. But at the same time, we’re able to expedite care for those that do need to be transported,” McKay said.

McKay has been with the Alaska Professional Volunteers for 15 years. His background includes numerous first responder positions in his hometown Anchorage. He said most of the member base is from Anchorage and the Valley.

He said there’s two core principles that drive the group: one, to provide standby medical services at events around the state and two, to offer training for volunteers of all ages year round.

“Working with public safety, there’s a comradery and fellowship almost that you get,” McKay said.

McKay noted how diverse the volunteer pool is, saying that people from all walks of life make up their active crew. Whether it’s someone just starting their EMS career out of high school or a retired EMT wanting to keep his skills current and keep helping people, there’s plenty of reasons to join Alaska Professional Volunteers.

Anyone who’s interested in joining the Alaska Professional Volunteers is welcome to do so. They accept a range of applicants, even young adults still working towards their EMT certifications. The less experienced members are simply paired with the seasoned veterans as they build up their skills.

For more information about the Alaska Professional Volunteers or volunteer inquires, contact McKay 907-349-9534.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at

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