There are 15 special volunteers in the South Shuswap who are dedicated to saving lives in our community. In 2013, the South Shuswap First Responders made 280 calls in their coverage area which includes Balmoral, Blind Bay, Carlin, Eagle Bay, Kault Hill, Notch Hill, Skimikin, Sorrento, Sunnybrae, Tappen and White Lake. With an average response time of eight minutes over the last 10 years, First Responders are usually on the scene before BC Ambulance arrives.
First Responders are dispatched in response to 911 calls, but they are not sent out to every call. There is a strict Resource Allocation Plan, set by the province, which determines whether First Responders are dispatched, and this is based on the information provided by the caller. In 2013, the most common calls were motor vehicle accidents, chest pain, falls, shortness of breath, conscious collapse, strokes, seizures, abdominal pain, cardiac arrests and allergic reactions.
All First Responders are required to complete a 40-hour Red Cross course to obtain a licence from the Emergency Management Association and the BC Ministry of Health. Re-certification must occur every three years, which includes a refresher course, written exams and practical skills demonstrations. Licensed volunteers are fully trained to administer oxygen, CPR, glucogel, check vitals, defibrillate, bandage, stabilize the patient, attach a cervical collar or stop bleeding. They also collect crucial information that will speed management provided by paramedics when they arrive on the scene. If needed, the First Responders can call for a BC Air Ambulance.
The South Shuswap First Responders are supported by donations and taxation through the Columbia Shuswap Regional District. For my money, the $25,000 or so that is spent each year in supporting this volunteer group in Area C is one of the best expenditures made by the CSRD.
Sherri Mitchell is the president, and Debbie Edwards is the vice-president of the South Shuswap group. They strongly encourage all residents in our area to take a CPR course as minutes can mean a lifetime in an emergency. They also recommend that all home owners install a reflective fluorescent sign to help First Responders quickly locate your home. Signs can be purchased from Tom Edwards (250-675-3355) and cost $30 for a single-sided and $33 for a double-sided sign.
First Responders are always on the lookout for new volunteers. In addition to the First Responders, there are also needs for people to assist with dispatch and director roles. If you feel you can make the commitment to help your community by being a First Responder, please call Sherri Mitchell (250-833-2536). People thinking about becoming a volunteer can spend several months observing meetings to get a sense of whether this is for them before they commit to the program. More information is available on the website (www.ssfra.ca).
On behalf of everyone in Area C, I would like to thank every First Responder for their dedication and commitment to making our community a safer place to live.
If you would like to suggest topics for future articles, or participate in our community advisory panel surveys, please contact me at email@example.com.
-Paul Demenok is the Area C director for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.