Back on the job Jocelyn Township first responders score new kits - Sault Ste. Marie News

2022-12-29 10:58:42 By : Ms. Lushyong Zhejiang

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The health and continued prosperity of a community is supported by its first responders and Jocelyn Township is no exception.

After a two-year hiatus due to COVID precautions, all the first responders on the team - whose role on the island is that much more important because of its isolation - had to be re-certified and resupplied.

It's a 15-minute drive to the nearest hospital in Richards Landing at the best of times and it's not a fully-equipped hospital. There are times when it's critical to stabilize a patient, wait for an ambulance and send them to Sault Area Hospital, an hour away.

That's when the first responders save lives with their dedication, training and the right equipment.

First responders are not paramedics, said Andrew Gardner, deputy chief of the Jocelyn Fire Department and President of the Jocelyn Township Fire Fighters Association.

But they are often first on the scene.

“We give them assistance at a scene and when they show up, they take over because we are not trained to their level,” he said.

In addition to regular first aid training, a 40-hour training course is required, and each responder requires re-certification training every three years at a cost of $5,000.

With training and practices every month, the first responder is trained on how to use life-saving techniques and equipment vital in the first few minutes after an injury or during an acute illness.

Training for first responders is provided by Algoma District Services Administration Board (ADSAB) and carried out at the Jocelyn Township main fire hall.

The first response team is stationed at Jocelyn Township’s main fire hall. The first response unit is also housed at the fire hall.

Any equipment used is replaced by ADSAB.

First Responders are called out to a scene, filling a gap, when an ambulance and paramedic are not on the Island or not expected to arrive for some time.

“We are medically trained through the Ministry of Health to respond to emergencies and to provide life-saving treatment,” Gardner said adding there are several defibrillators among the team. “We can do CPR and we are there that if someone is bleeding, we can stop a major bleed while we wait or the ambulance to come.”

First responders do not transport, they provide on-scene care only.

Gardner said a first responder is complimentary to a paramedic.

Earlier this year the Jocelyn First Responders reached out to the St. Joseph Island Lions Club for a donation to help purchase much-needed emergency response kits.

At the time they had very few kits at their disposal, which meant that they had to be shared by all 12 first responders, said a spokesperson for the St. Joseph Island Lions Club.

The kits were kept at the Jocelyn Fire Department site, which meant that whoever was responding to the emergency call would have to drive there before going to the emergency, wasting precious time… crucial time for the sick or injured person.

The first responder fundraising committee was able to raise funds needed for six kits with car washes, bottle drives and donations made for water deliveries because the Lions club members unanimously agreed that the first responders provide a service vital to residents of and visitors to the island.

With the increase in calls off the island and the rising number of calls to assist other communities, the ambulances and paramedics are not always close by. At times it can take 40-60 minutes for them to get to a call.

The first responders are advised of the emergency and go to the call. The kits allow them to help stabilize the person, assist them and possibly save their life while waiting for an ambulance and paramedics.

The Jocelyn First Responders are deployed across the island and are volunteers. Responders live in each of the four municipalities and each of them now has their own kit in their homes.

As one of the volunteers said, “having my own kit and not having to go to the fire hall cut my response time in half."

Each kit contains a little bit of everything including such items as bag valve masks for use during CPR, bandage material, automatic and manual blood pressure cuffs, oxygen sensors, oxygen regulators, cervical collars and splinting material.

The cost of each kit is $1,000.

Five of the 12 volunteer first responders are not volunteer firefighters.

All members of the team were re-certified in April and have been active since June.

“Dispatch was notified that we were certified in June and we started getting calls again,“ Gardner said.

Since then, Gardner said the team has responded to nearly 50 emergency calls with the majority of them medical calls.

Medical calls are not coming in from just one region of the Island.

“Calls are coming from all over the island and it’s the benefit of having team members all over the island,” Gardner said. “Basically, we circle the island. We are getting quite a few of the calls coming from the ‘foot’ of the Island.”

The first responder's team was formed just over 20 years ago due in part to respond to a need for medical help in some of the farthest points in Jocelyn Township to Richards Landing and beyond.

Due to the distance from the farthest points in Jocelyn Township to the closest medical care, the North Shore Health Network, Richards Landing Matthews Memorial Hospital site, then called Matthews Memorial Hospital where the paramedics and the ambulance are based.

Currently, under a priority call, lights and siren, it takes an ambulance 20 minutes to arrive near Fort St. Joseph area and, under perfect conditions with paramedics at the base, one-hour return.

Gardner once performed CPR on a patient for an hour while waiting for the ambulance to arrive from Thessalon.

At the time of its inception, there were only a few members of the Jocelyn Fire Department trained and equipped as first responders.

In recent years, Gardner said an increase in call-outs were received from across the entire Island.

Having volunteer members in all four municipalities, each equipped with their own medical kit, precious time and lives are saved.

Gardner said presently the 12 volunteer responders are comfortable numbers to work with, but if the call-outs increase, they may need to certify more volunteer responders.

About the Author: Donna Schell

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