Polite Canada Logo

North Okanagan Shuswap group to offer support in rural medical emergencies

The newly formed Southwest Shuswap First Responders Society (SSFRS), which was established in April this year, provides emergency medical treatment in rural areas that generally have ambulance response times of over 10 minutes. The society is the brainchild of resident Martin Hennigar, a career paramedic since 1974, who has been working on this idea for the last couple of years to form a first responder service aimed at addressing the critical void in rural areas.

Following the lead of already established societies in North and South Shuswap, Hennigar decided to start the SSFRS with the idea of neighbours helping one another. The purpose of the SSFRS is to provide immediate first responder medical aid to residents until BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) paramedics arrive. The general response time of provincial health services to an emergency could take up to 30 minutes, which puts patients at significantly higher risk.

The Southwest Shuswap First Responders Society will be able to respond to all areas of the region; however, Hennigar expects their primary coverage areas to be Falkland, Westwold, Monte Lake, and Silver Creek, as these communities currently do not have a first responder group. The society will be composed of fully trained volunteers who live in those communities, ideally with six volunteer members in each location having access to a full first responder kit, complete with a defibrillator, oxygen equipment, and portable radio. The volunteers will use their personal vehicles to offer services with a quicker response time of under 10 minutes.

SSFRS is currently dependent on grants-in-aid from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) and provincial government funding to cover equipment, supplies, and operating costs. Hennigar is trying to keep the costs low and estimates that it will cost $5,000 to fully equip each member, with an additional $1,000 per volunteer for first responder license training. While Hennigar is waiting for basic funding to get the society up and running, eleven volunteers have already joined the team, three of whom are trained paramedics. The society aims to follow the model of obtaining tax-based funding through the regional district, as has been the case with South and North Shuswap.

You can help Hennigar and his team by reaching out to him via email at mhennigar1@gmail.com.