First Responders have Heart

To celebrate those providing first aid, the second Saturday in September of each year is World First Aid Day. This is an annual opportunity for everybody to promote and gain knowledge in first aid. Every year, the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies all around the globe take this opportunity to engage with their communities through awareness activities promoting and celebrating the importance of first aid.  September 9th was International First Aid Day and Northern Hearts would like to give a shoutout to those in our region providing first aid and in particular, our regional Emergency First Response (EFR) teams.

Thunder Bay proper is a fairly well-defined urban city with a significant number of dedicated full time first responders who do CPR, carry defibrillators and carry lifesaving medications. However, like most larger centres in Northwestern Ontario, once you reach the city limits the surrounding rural areas have a significantly lower population and density. Paramedics, who are dedicated professional first responders, are strategically located at ambulance stations throughout our region. However, in our vast region there could be significant distance from a 911 caller to the closest available ambulance. In some cases, it could take in excess of 20 minutes for an ambulance to get to a patient or the only local ambulance could be on another call or heading to Thunder Bay. So, who is there to fill any gaps in first response?

The rural townships surrounding Thunder Bay District are fortunate to have one of the provinces only dedicated Emergency First Response (EFR) systems that works through 911. There are 12 such teams strategically located and include teams in: Shuniah, Pass Lake, East Gorham, Lappe, Conmee, Kaministiquia, Oliver/Papoonge, Shebandowan, Neebing, Gillies, O’Connor and Nolalu. In addition, there are two more organizations providing Emergency First Response in and around Thunder Bay that are not tied into the 911 system.  Fort William First Nation recently developed an EFR team and most people are familiar with St. John Ambulance who can be seen at many public events.

The 12 EFR programs in the townships surrounding Thunder Bay are under the oversight of Superior North EMS. These volunteers are fully trained as emergency first responders having completed a 44-hour Canadian Red Cross First Responder course with recertification every 3 years. They also attend training sessions that occur every month. Each team has a dedicated instructor that has completed a 20-hour instructor course. There is also a coordinator that provides oversite for the team and communicates with Superior North EMS. They are on call 24/7 responding to medical emergencies, motor vehicle collisions and provide standby support for their respective fire departments.

Aside from providing first aid they are fully trained in CPR and carry an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) to use in the case of a cardiac arrest (“heart attack”). Early CPR and defibrillation (“Shocking”) are truly life saving measures. It has been demonstrated through multiple studies that the sooner CPR begins and the sooner you can apply electricity to the heart (“shock the heart”) the greater the chance of survival for those suffering a cardiac arrest.

So, let’s give a big shout out to these dedicated Emergency First Responder’s who volunteer their time to provide timely and essential patient care. They are all our local hero’s!!!!

Thank you to Marika Listenmaa, Superintendent Professional Standards for Superior North Emergency Medical Services, for providing information on these lifesaving Emergency First Response programs.

For further information on emergency response measures, please visit the Northern Hearts website

Submitted by Dr. Andrew Affleck, Board Member, Northern Hearts