By LOU WILIN
ARLINGTON — For decades, volunteers at Appleseed EMS have been providing excellent and reliable emergency medical service to their neighbors in southern Hancock County.
But in recent years, the number of volunteers has dwindled.
Sometimes, when someone had an emergency, Appleseed EMS did not have enough people to respond.
After a delay of up to nine minutes while paging Appleseed, Hancock County dispatchers would then page Hanco EMS in Findlay. Hanco would respond to the emergency, but often from a farther distance and further delay.
Besides the delay, the situation spread Hanco thinner, putting it at risk of running short of manpower if it had an additional emergency.
This happened 15 times in 2017, said Todd Richard, Appleseed EMS chief.
“We can’t be missing 15 runs a year. Can’t do it,” he said. “It’s not good for the public safety.”
The situation could be life-threatening, depending on the patient’s condition, said Dr. Greg Arnette, director of hospital medicine and emergency services at Blanchard Valley Hospital.
It is a problem faced by some other volunteer EMS agencies, said Lorrie Dymond, public safety program coordinator at Vanguard Sentinel Career Center in Fremont, which offers emergency medical technician classes.
EMT volunteers are harder to find than they were 25 years ago, she said.
“I think it’s a generational thing. We have found that we are in super-speed 24/7. There’s just a lot of time constraints on individuals,” Dymond said. “To be able to find time to go to classes, then be able to know that you have to have continuing classes for your certification, to maintain it, and then also eke out some time to be able to be functioning on a squad. It’s very difficult.”
But Richard is swimming upstream, seeking volunteers to serve in Appleseed, which serves Jenera, Arlington, and the townships of Van Buren and Madison, and part of Eagle Township.
Being an EMT is a great way to help your community, family and friends, he said.
“It’s nice to be there for somebody. Somebody is asking for your help, and being there for them and caring for them the best that you can is pretty rewarding,” Richard said. “Most of us, that’s what it’s all about is just being there for someone else.”
To become a basic emergency medical technician takes 136 hours of training and passing an exam.
“The department pays for the training. We pay for all of the continuing education,” he said.
Classes are challenging, college-level, requiring study and dedication.
But more than that, the defining trait of someone qualified to be an EMT is whether they want to help others, Dymond said.
“The biggest thing is the desire to want to be an EMT. That has to be there,” she said.
There also is study. “There is going to be expectations of testing and reading and all that kind of stuff, just like you would be going to college,” she said. “So, the expectation is, of course, that there needs to be a level of dedication.”
The need for dedication continues after training and certification.
“You have to be willing to have your life interrupted at times because none of these runs occurs at a convenient time. They don’t,” Richard said. “It might be a holiday. It might be a ballgame you’re watching, a lot of things that you’re in the middle of, some chore at home or whatever. You have to be able to interrupt your life to respond.”
“Crawling out of a warm bed in the winter to go out in freezing temperatures isn’t very pleasant,” he said.
A supportive family also is important. “My wife hears the pager go off at 3 in the morning, just like I do,” Richard said.
Those who want to stay in it for the long haul must keep on getting up and going out, even at 3 a.m., to keep their skills sharp.
“We use some very sophisticated equipment. We have very specialized training at different levels and you have to maintain those skills,” Richard said. “Sometimes that’s difficult to do if you’ve only been running a dozen times during the year.”
Appleseed volunteers are on call for six-hour shifts and are paid $2 an hour. They receive $15 for each call. A call will take a minimum of 90 minutes of their time, or about two hours on average, Richard said.
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