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General News · 22nd September 2018
Marilyn CCHA
Vote YES on First Responder Program on Oct 20th
Interview with Thomas Behm, a retired Critical Care/Flight Paramedic for 29 years and now living on Cortes Island, serving as a Director on the Board of the CCHA.

Q: Since arriving here on Cortes have you noted any gaps in emergency medical services?
A: Yes, the gap is the lag time between calling 911 and the arrival of the ambulance and crew. This can be between 45 minutes and one hour. Many rural communities fill this gap with first responders who are specially trained volunteer firefighters.

Q: What is “The Golden Hour?
A: In emergency medicine there is a concept of “The Golden Hour.” That is, the time period in which intervention will be most effective. On Cortes most of that Golden Hour will be taken up waiting for the Ambulance crew to muster at the station and find the patient. This works for most emergencies but some are particularly critical (ie, cardiac arrest, drug overdose, respiratory distress) and require prompt attention, as in minutes, not an hour.
This is where Certified First Responders play a vital role.

Q: Any examples where we needed first responders?
Yes, last summer during a motorcycle accident in which two persons were injured. The ambulance got there in 45 min. The volunteer firefighters also responded within 15 minutes and, while helpful, lacked the first aid supplies and certification to apply immediate action at the scene.

Q: What can a first responder do?
A: The first responders receive 80 hours of intensive training over several sessions that enable them to render effective life support until the ambulance crew arrives. This can make the difference between life and death in some cases. The first responders can assist ambulance paramedics in extrication of victims physically beyond the reach of paramedics (rolled over, in a ditch, unable to exit vehicle, etc).
First Responders do not replace the BC Ambulance crew. They assist in timely intervention while adding another basic linkage in our continuum of care on Cortes Island.

Q: How much can response time be shortened?
A: Trained first responders can be spotted throughout the community and can respond in as little as five minutes. They carry a pack of essential items to provide emergency life support.

Q: How does it work?
A: When a call comes in for an ambulance on the 911 line the dispatcher determines the urgency of the problem. If the situation is deemed critical the 911 dispatcher will activate the First Responders on Cortes in a matter of moments. The first responders do not have to muster at the fire hall. Instead they can go directly to the scene. This can save lives.

The CCHA Board and the Cortes Group of Physicians are unanimously in favour of having Certified First Responders as part of the volunteer fire department and community care continuum.

Ronald Croda
CCHA Board Secretary