The volunteer roster has shrunk as calls for help skyrocket, but leaders are confident residents will step up to help their neighbors.
Faced with a skyrocketing increase in calls for emergency help, Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad is sounding the alarm for more volunteers. Anyone willing to help is urged to fill out an inquiry form at www.JoinClintonEMS.com. No experience is necessary.
The volunteer-run squad provides emergency health care, rescue from accidents and other dangerous circumstances, and hospital transit in Clinton Township, The Town of Clinton, Lebanon Borough, and portions of Union and Franklin townships. Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad (CFARS) responded to more than 4,000 calls in 2019 – an increase of 33 percent since 2015 and a whopping 67 percent since 2012.
“We’ve seen double-digit growth year-over-year for the past five years, and we don’t see this growth stopping anytime soon,” said CFARS Deputy Chief of EMS Bucky Buchanan.
As Call Volumes Grow, Membership Drops
An aging population, new residents moving in to newly built homes, the visiting patrons of recently opened hotels, and an uptick in traffic on local highways have all contributed to the increase in calls, Buchanan said.
But while calls have gone up, the number of Clinton volunteer Emergency Medical Technicians and rescue associates has dropped. CFARS isn’t immune from the societal shifts that have resulted in a nationwide shortage in volunteer first responders, but the hardest hit locally was circumstantial: 18 volunteers in fall 2019, the majority because they needed to leave the area for school or work.
“Nine of our young EMTs went off to college – we are fortunate that many still volunteer when they are home on breaks,” Buchanan said. “Most of the other nine either joined the military or took a job out of the area. They all left for the right reasons, but their absence still hurts.”
While the majority of CFARS personnel are donating their time, the squad employs a small number of career EMTs to cover the weekday hours when most volunteers are at work. If calls continue to rise without more volunteers stepping forward, CFARS will need to hire more paid EMTs to maintain necessary staffing levels. CFARS – not the municipalities it serves – pays these salaries. If paid personnel needs ever reached the point where CFARS could not remain financially untenable, the municipalities would have to field their own paid squad or contract out for this service, either of which would place put significant burden on local tax payers.
CFARS Chief Frank P. Setnicky is hopeful the community won’t allow this to happen. “I know this community, and I believe once people know how much we need volunteers – and that no experience is necessary to become one – our roster will fill again,” Setnicky said.
The Power to Save Others is In YOUR Hands.
Mark Black, 51, learned those lessons a bit more than a year ago. He had been coaching youth soccer, but his sons, Jake, 18, and Graham, 17, weren’t playing anymore and Black wanted a new way to give back.
Volunteering as a Clinton EMT sounded so interesting, but Black, a scientist and medical writer at Pfizer , had no experience with patient care. “I didn’t think they would even take me, but when I told them I’d never done anything like this, they said, ‘No problem! We can teach you.’”
Clinton First Aid’s commitment to being a progressive, community-based EMS agency led the squad to start it’s own training center three years ago. There, CFARS volunteers and other career and volunteer EMTs from across the region receive instruction for certification and on-going education and training. It’s all free for CFARS volunteers.
From the start, it’s been a wonderful experience, Black said. His favorite part is helping people in whatever way they need.
“It’s not all pounding on people’s chests and stopping a major bleed,” he said. “Sometimes, people fall and need us to pick them up. Sometimes, they are really worried and need assurance.”
On one call, he met a woman who was having a major panic attack. “She thought she was having a stroke,” Black remembers. He assessed her condition and determined nothing life-threatening was happening. “I held her hand, and asked her to concentrate on me, to forget what was going on around her, and let’s just breathe together.”
Black moved his hand slowly up and down and the woman matched her breathing to the motion. “Her breathing slowed down, and in 20 minutes, she was much calmer – a different woman.”
Those without experience should know that in addition to cutting-edge training, they will be working as part of a crew with more experienced EMTs. Additional emergency personnel are also just a radio call away, Black said.
Additional Member Benefits
Volunteering takes commitment, dedication, and time, but Black and other Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad members say the payback is unimaginable.
“You find out you have a new extended family,” said Carol Dorf, 49, who joined Clinton three years ago after her children Paul, 25, and Jessica, 22, had both left home.
“It gives you a new purpose to know that somebody needs you, and that you have learned these skills to help. It fulfills me.”
Many Volunteer Opportunities are Available
Clinton First Aid & Rescue needs volunteers in all categories:
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) provide immediate care to the ill and injured and transport the patient to the hospital.
Rescue Associates are EMTs or firefighters who also rescue people from life-threatening or hazardous circumstances, such as being trapped in vehicle after an accident.
Water Rescue Associates use specialized skills to rescue people during water-related emergencies, such as boating accidents or floods.Cadets are our youngest volunteers, ages 14 through 17. Cadets receive much of the same training and serve in many of the same ways as our other volunteers, and can quickly become full-duty members at age 18.