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Course offered for first responder volunteers
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CUBA CITY—A free course is being offered to those willing to volunteer for the Cuba City Area Rescue Squad as a first responder.

Rita Luna, director of the Cuba City Area Rescue Squad (CCARS), said the number of volunteers has dwindled to 22, where 25 years ago it was near 40. The number of calls has doubled over the years, too, causing more work for fewer people.

“This is a statewide problem,” Luna said. “Wisconsin is a fairly rural state, so, especially in these rural areas, we aren’t getting enough people to cover the calls.”

She said the state EMS Department reviewed options on how to help with rescue squad recruitment and assist the struggling rural communities. Since the curriculum for first responder and EMT basic courses is very parallel, only varying in the number of hours—70 versus 180—and amount of detail discussed, they thought that a medical first responder could, under the overseeing from an Advanced EMT or EMT, function as a member of a rescue squad crew.

“We still need AEMTs and EMTs, but this is a good entry level emergency services course,” Luna said. “They go through 70 hours of training to see if this is for them. They get to help the community. It’s a good way to determine if they really want to do this.”

The four-hour class every Thursday will prepare students to provide emergency pre-hospital assessment and care for patients of all ages with a variety of medical conditions and traumatic injuries. Areas of study include introduction to emergency medical services, roles and responsibilities of EMRs, basic anatomy and physiology, medical and trauma emergencies and special considerations for working in the pre-hospital setting. Students who successfully complete the 70-hour course will be eligible to take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians EMR certification examination.

The class is open to anybody. They don’t need a medical background; those skills are taught in the courses.

“We will pay for people who want to join our service,” Luna said. “People interested in joining services in their own town should contact their ambulance service in their own community to find out if they can receive help.”

To register for the course, first contact Rita Luna at CCARS, 744-8753. She will provide Cuba City participants with information needed to register at the Southwest Wisconsin Technical College registration portal. Luna recommended registering as soon as possible. The class is limited to 16 people and a minimum of 12 are needed to run the class. The class starts Jan. 28 from 6-10 p.m. at the Cuba City Rescue Building, 1013 S. Main St., Cuba City.

At this point, all levels of emergency response training are self-contained and don’t build upon each other. The 70 hours from the first responder course could not be applied toward the more intense 180-hour EMT course.
 Cuba City Service

The Cuba City Area Rescue Squad has been in service since 1976.

“Throughout that period of time we’ve had great numbers that have covered our needs, and we’ve had where we need more people,” Luna said. “Right now we’re in the place where we need more people, especially to cover calls during days.”

Luna said when she first started in 1990, there were130 to 140 calls, and now there’s approximately 300.

“We just don’t have enough people to cover that amount of calls,” Luna said. “Cuba City has become a bedroom community of sorts and many, many people work outside of town, especially during the day, so we don’t have enough people to help cover calls during those hours. And then, add to that mix that training to become an EMT Basic is 180 hours in a very rigorous course, and you don’t get people that can commit to that.”

She said there is a combination of factors that can create a barrier for people to want to volunteer for the rescue squad. This could include time commitments, stress, fear of legal action and health risks.

“With the hours involved for monthly meetings and training as well as responding to the calls, some people just can’t do it,” Luna said. “We’ve also become such a litigious society, I think, and people are afraid of getting sued if something happens.”

But, for those who want to help their community, volunteering for the rescue squad can be very rewarding.

“Every call is different,” Luna said. “When we’re paged out, dispatch tells us a little bit about what the call is, usually. We’re faced with leaving our families or the things we’re doing at home, go to the shed and get to the scene. From there you never know what to expect. It’s a potential surprise every time you go. Once you get there, you’re dealing with the patient as well as their family members and loved ones. When you’re an EMT, you see people in one of the most vulnerable situations that they can be in. We treat the medical, but we also have to treat the emotions or at least be sensitive to those. I don’t know how many times I’ve hugged the family member as we’ve taken the patient out. In little towns, when you go there, it’s so often someone you know, and that just creates a whole other dimension for the EMT to face and cope with. There are no easy calls.”

In the first responder course, the student is taught the basics of every aspect. Advancing to other classes, the material is taught in more detail, going into the theories behind the practices. There are some specific medications a first responder can’t give. The first responder class does not teach how to use the equipment used for transportation, although in-house training would be held for those individuals.

Luna said when there aren’t enough people able to respond to a call, mutual aid is requested from the surrounding communities.

“Our services work together really well,” Luna said.