EMS educator receives national Unsung Hero Award

Published 3:11 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2022

VACHERIE — With decades of experience in emergency medical training, Bernard Falgoust knows the steps to take in just about any situation.

It’s not often that he is rendered speechless, but that’s exactly what happened when he learned he was the recipient of the National Association of EMS Educators’ 2022 “Unsung Hero Award.”

Falgoust, owner of RIPs Safety Training & Consulting LLC in Vacherie, will officially be presented the award at this year’s National Association of EMA Educators Expo this August in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Helping people save lives is rewarding enough,” Falgoust said. “To receive this award was unexpected, to say the least. It was a pleasant surprise. It’s truly an honor to be recognized by one of the top training agencies in the country.”

Falgoust’s career in EMS education took shape more than 35 years ago, while he was working for the local fire department. A devastating auto accident in Vacherie required fire departments from surrounding communities to come in and render aid. The accident resulted in fatalities, prompting the fire department in Vacherie to start a rescue medical squad that could more quickly and effectively respond to medical emergencies.

After joining the rescue medical squad, Falgoust went on to become an EMT and worked on an ambulance on a part-time basis. He was working on the ambulance when he witnessed a call where fire department personnel were fervently working to help victims despite having no training.

“Rather than criticizing them, I felt the best thing to do was to teach them the proper way to provide care,” Falgoust said. “That’s what got me started as an educator, wanting to help volunteer fire departments provide care until the ambulance gets there.”

Falgoust initially offered EMT training in the community college setting in Thibodaux and Houma. Twenty-three years ago, he started RIPs Safety Training & Consulting LLC to expand training to industry as well as members of the public. What started out as a one-person operation has expanded to include three full-time employees and about a dozen part-time employees.

Course offerings include but are not limited to first aid, CPR, emergency medical responder and emergency medical technician. Participants can obtain certifications through the American Heart Association and become licensed throughout the state of Louisiana.

By becoming a voice for EMS standards in industry, he has ensured education is tailored to meet the needs of the workplace as well as state and national requirements.

Working with industry partners along the Mississippi River has allowed RIPs Safety Training & Consulting LLC to expand beyond Louisiana. Training is primarily offered in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, but the company has delivered lifesaving education as far away as Montana and Nevada.

Falgoust said the most important skill a responder must have is compassion for others. Many have come back to him to proudly share how they were able to apply the training to provide care and save an individual’s life. Sometimes, that individual ends up being a child or a loved one in their own family.

Falgoust has been a driving force for change and accountability as a member of the Louisiana Bureau of EMS Education Sub Committee.

Program instructor Trent Larousse said his success in the EMS field is a direct reflection of Falgoust’s high standards for EMS educators.

Larousse was a typical confused teenager wondering where his life would lead him after high school when he joined the volunteer fire service at age 16. He gained his first exposure to the EMS field that summer when the fire department placed him in one of Falgoust’s first responder courses.

Larousse has previously mentioned to friends and family that he was considering becoming an EMT. He was surprised by how many people tried to discourage him from pursuing the career, citing low pay and high workload.

“With only one week of being around Bernard in his course, his professionalism and advocacy for EMS completely changed my view of EMS, and I then knew this was the right career for me,” Larousse said. “Bernard’s continued support for not only myself but also EMS led me to becoming an EMT and employ with Acadian Ambulance service and later becoming an EMS instructor for the state of Louisiana. He has become my mentor and my model of what an EMS educator should be.”

Falgoust deeply cares about the wellbeing of all responders. In addition to providing training and education, he has debriefed countless responders following traumatic incidents.

“If a patient passes away, often that responder will blame themselves. We question ourselves what could have been done better, but oftentimes there is nothing more that could have been done,” Falgoust said. “In the briefing, we try to get them to talk about what they went through and bring it out in the open rather than holding it in. Once we bring them together and get them to talk about the incident, they realize they aren’t alone, and everyone feels the same way.”