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Rescue squads see potential in newly signed law
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A new law will help response time for first responders and EMTs in small communities throughout Wisconsin.

Act 113, signed into law by Governor Scott Walker in November states that one emergency medical technician plus one first responder will make a legal emergency response crew for transportation of patients.

This law changes the previous law, which required two EMTs, or licensed registered nurse, licensed physician assistant or physician or any combination of such to make a crew.

This new law will be especially helpful for Crawford County, as it is targeted at communities that are below 10,000 in population.  For providers in a community of up to 20,000, a waiver can be sought from the state.

Ocooch Mountain Rescue in Gays Mills is one emergency response squad, which has been able to already implement this new law into their course of action. Through writing it in to their operational plan with the state and getting it approved, Ocooch Mountain Rescue President Becky Salmon finds this new law to be a great change for rescue squads.

“It will definitely be a positive thing for responding to calls,” said Salmon, who is also a member of the North Crawford Rescue Squad, serving the Soldiers Grove area and have also implanted this new protocol.  “Our biggest challenge is having enough people for calls in the middle of the day, so if we are able to get first responders from Ferryville, Seneca, Steuben or other surrounding areas on our roster, an EMT could meet a first responder there and work together and take off to the hospital.” 

Currently, the Ocooch Mountain Rescue Squad has only four first responders on their roster, with several registered EMTs. Although there are a large number of EMTs on the roster, Salmon emphasized that gathering a crew with enough people can be challenging due to work schedules.

“So many people work out of the area, during the day and even on weekends, so getting a crew for midday calls can be tough,” Salmon explained.

The hope with this new law will be that more people will be interested in stepping forward to join their area first responder and EMT team to help calls go more efficiently.

“First responders are very important members of the team, they’re the first ones on there, they start bandaging and they assess the situation.” Salmon said.

North Crawford Rescue Squad president Todd Salmon also agreed with points made by Becky, “I think it will be a tremendous help to the communities, we don’t have many EMTS or First responders,” noted Todd “hopefully not everyone will only take the first responder course though because we need EMTS too.”

Both presidents agreed that with this new law, safety is not a concern, “We will likely have more than just two people on a crew, but this way we can have two first responder and a EMT, because we’ve had times when there were first responders there and not enough EMTS but they weren’t legal to roll, and now they would be,” Todd explained.

The State of Wisconsin requires 49 hours of education for the First Responder course although some programs in Wisconsin require a course in excess of 60 hours. Generally, first responders are taught the basics of emergency medical care giving them the ability to treat life-threatening problems prior to the arrival of the ambulance. The skills include operating a cardiac defibrillator, using an Epi-pen, bleeding control, CPR, taking vital signs and oxygen administration.

EMTs are required to complete the EMT-Basic course which consists of approximately 180 hours if instruction. The training includes basic anatomy and physiology, understanding of various body systems, illnesses, injuries and their associated treatments. EMTs are also authorized to administer medications such as aspirin and epinephrine. 

Becoming a first responder or EMT has been made easier by area rescue squads, Salmon noted.

“People just need to come talk to us,” Salmon said. “They can call me, or speak to another member of the squad and they’ll get the message to us. We pay for you to take the class, which is generally in held Fennimore, but if we get enough people (12) they will host a class closer.”

“It takes someone special to be a first responder, but they’re a excellent asset to the community,” Salmon said.

Those interested in learning more about becoming a first responder or EMT or with other questions can contact Becky Salmon, President of Ocooch Mountain Rescue (Gays Mills area) at 624-5484 or Todd Salmon, President of North Crawford Rescue (Soldiers Grove area) at 624-3260 or others on your local rescue squad.  “We hope more people will be interested in joining,” Todd concluded.

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