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Emergency response

11/28/05 12:00AM By Casey Huling
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(HOST) Commentator Casey Huling is a volunteer fire fighter in Thetford, who says that his town's approach to emergency services is based on several common sense ideas that could be helpful anywhere.

(HULING) Even as news from the Gulf Coast shifts from recovery to rebuilding I can't help but think about the response to that initial call for help. How would people's lives be different now if the appropriate agencies had acted more quickly and efficiently? My own experience in responding to emergencies comes from my involvement as an EMT and firefighter with the Thetford Volunteer Fire Dept. I'm trained in a variety of skills that certainly could have been useful had the disaster struck closer to Vermont. But beyond providing emergency medical assistance and rescue equipment, it's our model of response that I feel offers the best hope for future disaster.

This model was put into place at a recent incident involving a hiker who had fallen down a bank and injured his leg. His 911 call for help mobilized an ambulance staffed with two emergency medical technicians, four additional volunteer EMTs, four volunteer firefighters, a park ranger, a local police officer, a heavy rescue truck and a six-wheeled all-terrain vehicle. While this certainly sounds over the top for what turned out to be a twisted ankle, it highlights our focused, well-practiced strategy when someone calls for help: we respond with all of our available resources.

With this approach comes the responsibility to be flexible. Everyone understands that the response can be altered, but only after the entire situation is fully appreciated. Perhaps responders will be diverted back to the fire station. Or perhaps other resources will be summoned when it's clear that we cannot mitigate the situation alone. What's clear is that it's easier to send people home after they've responded, than it is to organize a response after the fact.

The consistency and thoroughness of this approach also allows for a certain sense of security and support to all those involved. As I respond to a call I know other members of the department are on their way, too. We respond not only to help whoever is in need, but to help each other do a better job. We don't question the severity of the call or think: "I'll let someone else take this one".

When people call for help, whether they live in Thetford or Louisiana, they need to know that help is actually on the way and that it will be effective.

This is Casey Huling of Thetford.

Casey Huling is a middle-school teacher in Thetford. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.
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