DRYDEN — Come the fall, 24 people will have the chance to get certified as first responders in a new course Tompkins Cortland Community College is offering to help get more people interested in emergency medical services.
“It is great, as long as the word gets out to the public and more people sign up for the classes,” said Kevin Westcott, the director of operations for Dryden Ambulance.
Beginning Aug. 22, students will meet two times a week until December, at which point they would take the state practical skills exam and written certification exam. Course instructor Lee Price said the students would learn skills like CPR, how to stop bleeding and how to open and control an airway.
“The goal is to be able to deliver care until paramedics arrive,” he said.
The hope for the course is to get people interested in possibly moving up the emergency medical service ladder — from first responder to emergency medical technician to paramedic — especially in volunteer departments.
“The availability of first responders, especially in volunteer agencies, has been on the decline for a while now,” Price said. “There seems to be a nationwide problem with that, too, it’s not just New York,” Westcott said.
Price said each rank of emergency medical services personnel is able to provide increasingly sophisticated care:
• Certified first responders provide basic life-saving care including CPR and stabilizing the patient. Certification can take 48 to 60 hours of training.
• Emergency medical technicians, depending on if they are advanced or not, will provide all the same basic life-saving measures along with services like extreminity splinting or providing medication. Certification can take 150 to 200 hours of training.
• Paramedics do everything first responders and EMT do as well as services like chest tube placement or chest decompression. Certification takes 1,000 to 1,200 hours of training.
A number of reasons could be behind the decline in emergency medical services personnel, said Bill Ackroyd, chairman of the board of directors for the Neptune Hose Co. and Dryden Ambulance. He noted people are living busier lives and may not have time to take the course, or even volunteer.
The class is open to anyone and costs $260 per participant, Price said. However, participants affiliated with fire or another emergency medical services agency could have the cost reimbursed through the state Health Department, according to a news release on the course.
Ackroyd said as a volunteer himself, he’s happy the program is happening.
“Hopefully this will get people interested and say ‘Oh, I’ve always wanted to help my community,” he said.