Firefighters train to be town’s first responders
by Jack Deming
Nov 01, 2013 | 3087 views | 0 0 comments | 114 114 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHITINGHAM- Earlier this year Whitingham Ambulance Service Inc. shut down operations due to financial stresses, dwindling membership, and an inability to maintain state requirements for optimal readiness. This created a huge question mark: Who would service Jacksonville, Whitingham, and Halifax in the event of an emergency. Thanks to a cohesive effort between Deerfield Valley Rescue and first responders, a new system for attending to medical emergencies has been going smoothly.

When DVR took over WASI on May 15, WASI also gave the group based in Wilmington its ambulance. But another part of the agreement has taken shape over the last five and a half months as 15 Whitingham volunteer firefighters took an emergency medical response class, which teaches how to access scenes of emergencies, patients’ needs, and basic emergency medical procedures like CPR and checking vital signs.

Halifax already has an emergency response team and, according to Whitingham Fire Chief Stan Janovsky, it’s a huge benefit to the town.

“For our population, it’s important,” said Janovsky. “We had 75 to 80 ambulance calls just here in Whitingham.”

New territory means increased call volume for DVR and Janovsky says DVR will sometimes beat the first responders to a call depending on the proximity to the station. Whitingham has its own first response truck, utilizing the fire company’s 1971 Suburban brush truck, which carries a defibrillator, a jump kit, and an oxygen tank, and if first responders are at the scene first, they provide initial help on scene until paramedics can arrive.

According to DVR business manager Heidi Taylor, the cohesiveness of the new system has made for an easy transition, and DVR has received 51 calls from Whitingham since the takeover.

“It’s a huge benefit, obviously,” said Taylor. “We’re in Wilmington, but we keep an ambulance in Whitingham and it makes a tremendous difference to patients to have first responders there before we are with the ambulance. It’s the same situation in East Dover as well, and we would like to see this in West Dover as well. It was something we all agreed to because we knew it’s a ways out to some places and you’re gone for a while.”

Janovsky said that toward the end of WASI’s tenure, the service only employed one full-time responder, which created long wait times until a second responder could arrive.

While every member of Whitingham’s volunteer fire fighting force is a member of the rescue company, administrative duties are being performed by Dennis Pike, with final decisions going through the chief. Janovsky said that the rescue group is composed of three-person shifts which members of the force volunteer for, a process they mirrored after DVR’s volunteer system.
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