SONOMA COUNTY -- Sonoma Life Support, the local arm of national ambulance company American Medical Response, recently achieved the highest ranking by the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services, a three-year award that was established to promote quality care across the medical transportation landscape.

The accreditation signifies that a service has met the "gold standard" determined by the ambulance industry to be essential in modern emergency medical services provider, according to Sonoma Life Support, which also recently had its contract with the county renewed.

The standards often exceed those established by state or local regulation and are designed to help increase efficiency, as well as decrease risk and liability across the entire spectrum of the organization, the company said.

There are only 15 similarly accredited ambulance companies across California, with seven of those being AMR affiliates. Sonoma Life Support is the only company in the county to receive the designation, according to commission.

The process includes a comprehensive self-assessment and an independent external review of the emergency medical organization. The independent process provides verification to local government agencies and the medical community that quality care is provided to the region, according to Sonoma Life Support.

All ambulance systems are eligible for the three-year accreditation including private, public, fire department and hospital-based.

There are more than 100 standards that must be met, covering all aspects of ambulance service management; financial management; budgeting and strategic planning; relations with outside agencies; mutual aid and disaster coordination, community education and relations, human resources and personnel management, hiring, credentialing, training, problem resolution, performance evaluations;  quality improvement; safe operations and risk management; vehicles, equipment, and facilities; and communications and dispatch.