The Ranchero Deep Creek First Responders group is in danger of shutting down service next month.
Unit chief, instructor and training officer Celia Harris and her husband Wayne, who are now the only members of the unit which serves an area from Springbend Road to the top of Larch Hills, north to the industrial park and south to the end of Deep Creek Road.
“It’s a huge area, and this is obviously why we need more people,” says Harris, who notes the unit, founded in 1994, was one of the first in the province and had enough members to respond quickly. “Now, if something happens up at Larch Hills, it would take me half an hour, so I might as well not go –the ambulance would get there first.”
First responders are dispatched at the same time as ambulances and members are trained to assess, initiate treatment and prepare the patient for rapid expedition to hospital.
“We have advanced training, we do CPR, carry a defibrillator and can perform lifesaving skills…,” says Harris. “All the things that a person can get into mischief over, especially in a rural area where ambulance waits average 30 minutes.”
In her area, that includes a lot of DIY (do-it-yourself) accidents – falls from roofs and chest pain from over-working, for example. Road accidents account for about 50 per cent of the calls.
First responders are provided with free and highly respected training through the Justice Institute of B.C. but do no heavy work.
“Safety comes first, so if a situation is beyond your capabilities, you’re not expected to perform – and there’s no pressure,” she says.
Harris suggests the volunteer position is well-suited to people who are retired or semi-retired, empty nesters and particularly to couples, so they don’t have to go on a call alone.
Harris would like to see first responders located throughout the Ranchero-Deep Creek area so they can actually be first on the scene.
Not only is Harris bemoaning a lack of volunteers, she is extremely frustrated about funding cuts imposed by the provincial government.
“Now units have to pay for manuals, training and examinations, which we did not have to do before,” she says, noting the cuts occurred in 2011. “It means not only is our focus on providing a service, but now have to look for funding as well.”
While she says the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is generous in funding, unit expenses have climbed dramatically.
“Expenses have now escalated in the fact we have to have two different types of insurance,” she says, noting that totals $4,000.
“And I am embedded in paperwork, which is putting me off.”
Anyone who would like to consider taking part in this valuable community service is asked to commit to training on the second and fourth Monday of the month – from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Ranchero Fire Hall.
Training can start anytime someone wants to do it. Call Celia Harris at 250-832-3057 for information or to sign on.
“If we don’t get people by Christmas, we really will have to fold,” she says. “Even if they cannot actively support, I am looking for a volunteer to help with paperwork.”