Every day, in the towns of Brome Lake and West Bolton, First Responders are called to at least one emergency. It could be someone having a cardiac arrest, falling on the ice or being hurt in a car accident. After the call for help, we can expect two First Responders to arrive within five to seven minutes. Tempo met with First Responder Supervisor, Alan Bowbrick, to find out more.

TBL and West Bolton have 36 First Responders on the roster. There are two vehicles that carry all the emergency gear and road safety equipment. On 12-hour shifts, teams of two are always on call. They are called on smartphones that instantly provide them with details about the patient, a GPS address for the location, ongoing patient updates and location of the ambulance. A two-person team will have a senior experienced First Responder and a more junior one. In some cases, they will be joined by a trainee who will merely observe.

The role of the First Responder is to stabilize the person and the situation. “In an emergency, the first ten minutes are critical,” says Bowbrick. “We can live for four minutes without breathing but by ten minutes there is permanent damage. So our first job, in extreme cases, is to ensure that the person is getting enough oxygen.” It is also important to make the scene safe. In a road accident, the First Responder car is parked with its lights on 50 feet behind the accident and cones are used to divert the traffic away from the scene. At home, one of the team often helps keep family members calm.

Bowbrick recruits locally and has just completed the training for this year’s new intake. What kind of person makes a good First Responder? Bowbrick looks for people who are self-assured and who can handle stress, and who are both open to new knowledge and also able to follow a process. What is the commitment? First Responders have to be on call for four 12-hour shifts a month and they are paid $45 per shift or $3.75 an hour.

“People,” Bowbrick said, “do this because they love the work and they want to make a difference.” The service is paid for by the towns of Brome Lake and West Bolton.

“We are fortunate,” Bowbrick concluded, “our First Responders are very professional and they are also your neighbours. The community serves the community.”