WHITINGHAM -- After Whitingham Ambulance Service Inc. dissolved last year, residents raised concerns about response times since Deerfield Valley Rescue took over its coverage area.
Community members then decided to create a new agency, Whitingham First Response.
"We got the license in the mail the other day for advanced level service," said Head of Service Dennis Pike Sr. The license to operate a first responder service, issued by the Vermont Department of Health on April 3, will allow the group to provide more services during calls.
Last year, WASI's license was suspended due to its long response times and it was issued a conditional license that expired on June 30. The organization disbanded last spring.
At a meeting on April 14, Whitingham First Response's training officer Skipper Teft, a trained paramedic, was referred to as a mentor. He said the group could now carry more drugs for instances that include treatments for cardiac arrest. It can also carry more advanced equipment such as breathing apparatus.
"We can set up a defibrillator machine, administer oxygen, take vitals and start paperwork," he said.
The group touted its ability to get to the scene of an emergency during any season, as it has a snow mobile and a four-wheel ATV.
Since August until Jan. 1, Whitingham First Response went on approximately 71 calls. From January until April 15, there were approximately 20 calls that the group went on.
"I have heard there are people who are happy to know that there are people in the community who will show up," said member Tanya Bernard.
She told the Reformer that Whitingham First Response tends to respond to calls within five minutes or less.
Pike, his wife Stephanie, and several other members are also members of Deerfield Valley Rescue.
The Whitingham First Response team receives notification when an emergency call is sent out to Deerfield Valley Rescue. Its initial goal was to get to the scene first and begin getting the necessary paperwork filled out.
"We're only looking to assist," said member Marshall Dix.
The group said it was content with its newly received certification. The next level to reach would be to have a paramedic license or a certificate to operate an ambulance, which its members will not be seeking.
Whitingham First Response members had to go through a 60-hour class and fill out paperwork. There was a day of practical exams followed by a state administered test. In order to receive the license, the group needed at least six certified emergency medical responders or EMRs on its roster. Currently, there are six certified members but more are planning on getting EMR certification.
"Everybody took their practicals. Now, they just need to get around to going to Brattleboro or Bennington to take the computer test," said Pike. "(Deerfield Valley Rescue's) been very helpful with the whole setting up and working together."
Some of the members met when they were children in elementary school but they began to take classes for the first responder certification in May once WASI dissolved.
Whitingham First Response is still looking for volunteers to join the group. For more information, call Pike at 802-430-4320.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.