The Rescue Squad needs you

New EMT class starting in the fall
Fri, 08/18/2017 - 10:00am

Beth Rousseau is the crew chief for the Block Island Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad. She will be giving an Emergency Medical Training class starting Sept. 10. Anyone interested in attending should contact Rousseau at the Police Station at (401) 466-3220. The Block Island Times spoke to her about the services the Rescue Squad provides to the Island:

Q: Can you describe to us the role of an EMT?

A: We are on the front line. Meaning, in an emergency situation, when someone calls police dispatch (or 911) for help, we get sent out to treat them; and by treating them, it means tending to their wounds, dressing, splinting, and stabilizing injuries that we can see and those that we can’t; and transporting the patient to the Medical Center for definitive care. We don’t have the luxury of calling in another crew so we respond to all calls for help, at all hours of the day and night. We leave our families, our jobs, and our warm beds on cold nights to provide care to everyone who is sick and/or injured.

Q: How many EMT’s do you currently have?

A: We have 18 members on the Squad who are licensed EMTs. However, of the 18, only eight or nine are the core component of our team. They are the ones who respond to the bulk of the calls, at all hours, day and night. They are a vital part of our success as a team. 

Q: How many calls do you respond to, especially in the summer? What type of calls and what kind of things do you see?

A: When last year was all said and done, we had responded to over 400 calls. It was the first time ever, in the history of our squad that we had hit that benchmark. The bulk of our call volume happens from June into September. This year, we are approximately 30 calls behind last year at this time. However, August has started out particularly busy so we’ll have to wait and see where we end up at the end of the year. 

We respond to any kind of illness/injury you can think of; for a seasick person, a person who has sustained any kind of trauma (think moped, bicycle, or car accident, and plane/boat crashes), gunshot wounds, stabbing, drowning, the birth of babies, any kind of medical emergency such as seizures, breathing difficulty, someone who is choking, strokes, heart attacks, intoxicated individuals, and drug overdoses. We also respond to mental health issues, missing person calls, stand by for fireworks displays, and any time the fire trucks roll, we respond and back them up — and we have seen it all!  We see life and death, and we see sorrow and joy.  I don’t think I will expound on the gory details of the injuries we sometimes see. I’m certain the readers will use their imaginations based on the type of calls listed above.

Q: How long have you been an EMT and why did you get involved in this work?

A: The short answer is, I’ve been a licensed EMT for 28 years. The longer explanation is, my interest started with a CPR class I took in high school that was given by members of the Rescue Squad. I joined the Fire Department (to join the Rescue Squad) in 1987. I took an advanced first aid class that Lisa Sprague taught and two years later, the Squad, with Lisa as one of the instructors, offered an EMT course. I was already a public safety dispatcher and it seemed like the perfect, natural progression — responding for the same calls I was dispatching for. I liked the knowledge that came with understanding the “whole” process. 

Q: What kind of training do you have, and do you need to be recertified periodically?

A: I was licensed (by the State of Rhode Island) as a Basic EMT until 2006. Then, in 2006 I traveled to the mainland three days/nights a week for three months to become an EMT-Cardiac. I completed the course and passed the state-required testing and was licensed as a cardiac in December of that year; and I have maintained that level ever since. A cardiac is a step down from becoming a paramedic. I have several skills that are more advanced than a basic EMT. I am also a licensed CPR and First Aid instructor, as are several other members of our squad. As an EMT, we are required by the state to recertify every three years.

Q: You’re starting a new EMT training class. Can you give us some details about it?

A: Yes, we are offering an EMT class that will start on Sunday, Sept. 10 and run through the winter and into spring. The course will be approximately 220 hours and will include class lectures, skill labs, CPR certification, extrication training, hazardous materials, mass casualty scenario, and testing. Classes will be held at the Fire/Rescue station and primarily will be held Sunday and Wednesday nights. Each class runs for approximately four hours. I have several people from the mainland, along with myself, who will be providing the instruction. Students will also meet the other members of our rescue squad and will get to see what we are all about.

Q: How do people sign up?

A: Anyone who is interested in taking this class should know that this is not something we are offering to fill a boring, quiet winter season. We are doing this because we are desperately in need of new members. Most of us have been doing this for 15-, 20-, 30-plus years and our number is dwindling. We are older and tired and in need of “new blood” and we are asking for your help. People, who are seriously interested in serving their community in a much needed and very rewarding way, should contact me at the Police Station. Stop in, or call (466-3220) and leave your name and phone number and I will get right back to you. Sign up starts now and we need you. Join us and become an integral part of our team!

Q: Finally, can you tell us why you think this kind of work is so rewarding?

There is an emotional toll that takes place (on the responders) that exists for each of us at some time or another. Some think it’s a little less in the summer months because we don’t know, for the most part, the people we respond for. Whereas, during most of the year, we do know the people. They are our neighbors, friends, and family members. We sometimes learn/know things about people in our community that we wish we didn’t. Sometimes it can be a comfort to the patient, that they know us and us them; and sometimes it’s a curse. Which brings me to the “rewarding” part of the job. We get to save lives! It plainly, and honestly doesn’t get any better than that.  We see people on their worst day, and we get to help them. We have good calls and we have bad calls. However, there will be a day, when a choice that you have made during the treatment of someone, that will mean the difference in their survival. 

The result will be overwhelming joy for you. You saved a life… you made a difference… you mattered.