South Shuswap First Responders train with firefighters at the Tappen Sunnybrae Firehall. (South Shuswap First Responders photo)

South Shuswap First Responders in desperate need of volunteers

The next training session for new volunteers begins Sept. 14

South Shuswap First Responders are in urgent need of new recruits.

At this time, only eight responders deliver service to 51,366 residents (2016 census) in Area C of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, a region that is 601 square kilometres in size.

Area C stretches from the Salmon Arm side of Kault Hill, west to Squilax and includes Sunnybrae, Tappen, Notch Hill, Sorrento-Blind Bay, Eagle Bay and White Lake.

Trained volunteers respond to 911 emergency calls to provide aid and comfort until BC Ambulance arrives to provide transport.

“We have eight responders available when they’re not working, on holidays or whatever,” said South Shuswap First Responders spokesperson Debbie Edwards. “That usually means we have two in the whole area, maybe.”

The group used to provide service 24-7 but has had to cut coverage from 7 a.m. to 10 at night, and only for the most urgent calls such as strokes, heart attacks or drug overdoses.

“Some people are under the misconception they have to be available all the time, but it’s not that,” she said, pointing out most volunteers have full-time jobs. “Our expectation is, if an evening call comes in and you’re available, you’ll respond.”

Edwards said volunteers are not expected to sit at home and wait for a call on their radios, but rather respond according to their own time and availability.

The only people who have a regular schedule are dispatchers and they have either a half-day or full-time shift.

Edwards said South Shuswap Responders no longer respond to most accidents as airbags have reduced the number of serious injuries.

“We would like to go to all of them, but there are so few ambulances, we could be waiting an hour to an hour-and-a-half for one to show up.”

The next training session for new volunteers begins Sept. 14 and interested individuals should register soon as reading a prescribed manual in advance is required.

The CSRD does not operate the program but does provide some grant funding to the non-profit group. The cost to provide 48 hours of training and equipment to each responder is in the neighbourhood of $6,500.

“It’s all free, so the expectation is you’ll stick around for a bit, not as your first priority but to incorporate it into your daily life,” she emphasized, pointing out the group’s motto is “family first, work, then responders.”

Anyone who is interested in keeping this critical group alive may send an email to ssfr@shaw.ca. For more information, go online to Facebook and enter South Shuswap First Responders in the search box.

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