July 7, 2011 by wcobserver
By Timothy D. Dennis
FAYETTEVILLE – Volunteer fire departments in the area often have been beset by a shortage of personnel capable of responding to medical emergencies. However, about 20 county teens learned the requisite skills for response during the county’s ninth annual Camp Rescue.
The camp is held annually during the third full week of June and is hosted by the Washington County Fire Marshal’s Office, Central EMS, and several rural fire departments in the county. Area 14 to 18-year-olds participated in classes lasting from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each weekday.
The Emergency Services Expo Day was the capstone event of the camp, allowing the students to show off the skills they learned throughout the week. The expo was held Saturday morning at the Washington County Sheriff’s Department in Fayetteville. Air Evac Lifeteam, the Fayetteville Fire Department and the Washington County Search and Rescue K-9 unit gave demonstrations during the expo.
Dennis Ledbetter, county fire marshal, worked for the Fayetteville Fire Department for 27 years, and he said that the camp helps prepare teens who are thinking of working in the fire or medical fields.
“You can come and kind of get in the reality of things,” Ledbetter said. “You know it’s not everything you see on TV: the car’s gonna be laying up in the ditch; it’s gonna be 2 a.m.; they’re gonna be drunk; they’re gonna be fighting you.”
Ledbetter said that the camp’s controlled environment allows the teens to receive as much training in five days as other first responders get during a six to eight week long course.
First-Timers and Returnees
Skylan Branson of West Fork attended the camp for the first time this year.
“I just wanted to be educated a little bit about what first responders do,” she said. Branson said that the camp is a good eye-opener for teens interested in the medical field because it gives them a chance to see what the work is like.
Baylea Cantrell of West Fork graduated from the camp in 2008, but she volunteered last week—oftentimes acting as the dummy in demonstrations and helping the students learn the practical application of the skills being taught.
“I’ve gone on a few calls, but it’s just more fun to have that knowledge than anything else,” Cantrell said. “It is a fantastic awesomely fun program, and you could possibly save someone’s life.”
The students learned a number of skills during the camp. Each student is fully certified to give CPR, and they all learned the skills necessary of a first responder. In previous years, completing the camp fully certified the students as first responders.
“This year they won’t be first responders because we didn’t have enough time,” said Jerry Mayer, a camp instructor and paramedic at Central EMS. He said that the number of training hours required for certification was increased only days before the camp began. “Next year I think we’re going to prolong the class so they’ll be able to do more stuff.”
Jaws of Life
At the vehicle extrication demonstration, some team members used the Jaws of Life to access the vehicle’s interior while other team members stabilized the volunteer accident victims with a backboard and neck brace.
“That’s teamwork,” Ledbetter said as he pointed to a group of students strapping a victim to a backboard. “They come here in the summer, they could be home laying in bed, air conditioning. They had to study. Not only did they have to pass the test, you gotta show your skills, and it’s a big step forward for a lot of them.”
Fewer students enrolled in the camp this year, but instructors said that the smaller number of kids was a good thing.
“It’s easier to have more one-on-one time with them,” Mayer said. “I think this is one of the best years that we’ve had. The students did really well.”
The camp gives students a taste of what working in the emergency response field is like, and some camp graduates have gone on to work for Central EMS or other area fire departments.
Teenagers Learn CPR
Chris Upton of West Fork went through the camp a second time this year to refresh the skills he learned at the camp last summer.
“This is kind of a class that you can’t really remember everything unless you use it a whole lot,” Upton said. Since finishing the class last year, he said that he worked for the West Fork Fire Department. He was a part of the department’s explorer group, in which teenagers took classes with the firefighters and act as support personnel during some medical and fire emergencies.
Upton said that he originally took the camp because he wanted to be a lifeguard, and knowing CPR was a requirement for the job. He said that after going through the program, he enjoys many of the medical skills he has learned.
“I like that it teaches stuff that you can use every day. My favorite part about this whole thing is backboarding because it’s the funnest and easiest part of it. CPR’s fun too,” Upton said. “I’m hoping to work in an ambulance [and] be an EMT or a nurse or a doctor.”
The CPR skills are the most important skill taught at the camp, Mayer said.
“CPR is most effective when it’s done immediately. If they wait for an ambulance to get there, their chance of survival goes down,” Mayer said. “It’s not a special skill; they could be with their family at a reunion, and they might have to save a family member’s life instead of a stranger’s.”