New volunteer first responders fill Craig County need

CRAIG COUNTY – An EMS First Responder class held in Simmonsville has resulted in a new group of state-certified volunteer emergency medical service providers for some of Craig County’s most far-flung areas.

Simmonsville resident Barbara Charlton was instrumental in recruiting the members of the recent class.

First Responder class members, from left are Barbara Charlton, instructor Jack Lewis, Pat Charlton, Martha Murphy, Stephen Krolicki, Veneracion Krolicki, Charles "Chuck" Harris, Julie Crouse, Marjorie Lewter. Not pictured: Duane Means, Benji Smith, Nicole Bell. Photo by Martha Murphy

“I was made aware of the need for EMS First Responders in the Sinking Creek area through an announcement that Debbie Snead made at church. I thought it would be a good project for our community improvement club,” she said. Charlton stated that she had a strong response from the community as word spread about the class, which was held at Bethel United Methodist Church in Simmonsville. Class members were recruited from both the Sinking Creek and Johns Creek areas of the county, which both have long ambulance response times. According to EMS instructor Jack Lewis, who taught the class, a total of 11 people completed the course and eight have already become state-certified.

In the state of Virginia, EMS First Responders (soon to be officially changed to the name “Emergency Medical Responder” or EMR) complete a 60-hour training course in prehospital care for medical emergencies. They also must pass a comprehensive state test to become certified. Although in Virginia First Responders cannot be in charge of an ambulance as EMTs can, they are trained to respond to and stabilize all major medical or traumatic emergencies on scene. First Responders are also allowed to operate a state-designated first-response vehicle, which is one that is equipped for medical emergencies but does not transport patients.

“I’m very excited about the new volunteer First Responders,” said Jim Cady, Craig County Emergency Services Coordinator. He indicated that there has been a need for EMS providers in the Sinking Creek area for some time. “In EMS, the important thing is to get a medical provider with the patient as quickly as possible, and then to get a medical truck on scene. The treatment that a First Responder provides as they await the arrival of an ambulance can be crucial and can potentially save lives.”

Cady stated that the First Responders could be working with ambulances from several different agencies in addition to local ambulances. “They might see trucks from Carilion or Giles County on time-sensitive calls,” he said. He stated that the new responders will be given the opportunity to affiliate with both Craig County Volunteer Rescue Squad, which most have already done, and the new county EMS agency. Cady stressed that both agencies will work together to provide equipment and additional training for the First Responder group, with an ultimate goal of securing a medically equipped first response vehicle for them.

Shawn Matheney, Chief of Craig County Volunteer Rescue Squad, also expressed enthusiasm about the new providers, stating, “They are a great asset. Being in the outreaches of the county, they can respond quickly to be with the patient until a unit can get there.” He also expressed the opinion that the First Responder certification is a good entry point into EMS for those people who might be interested in more emergency medical training, but are hesitant to make the larger time commitment that the EMT certification requires.

“We are providing the First Responders with a medically equipped response bag when they join our squad,” Matheney said. “We hope others in the county will consider taking this course when it is offered in future, as it is a good way to give back to your community and fill a real need, as well as excellent training for handling any type of medical emergency.”

By Carol Lewis, Correspondent