By Mallory Drover
The Homer Volunteer Fire Department is currently training new volunteers to be EMT-1’s (Emergency Medical Technician level 1) for the city of Homer. There is a wide variety of civilian volunteers taking the class, including high school students. In the class, students learn skills such as patient assessment, splinting, hemorrhage control, oxygen therapy, suctioning, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in order to respond to medical emergencies.
“I got recruited,” said Johnny Doan, an EMT-1 and Homer High student who just finished the firefighter course as well. “I had a chimney fire last year and Dan came up and he talked to me about the firefighter class.”
The recruiting process of finding volunteers is primarily word of mouth, though the department also runs an ad in the local newspaper and hangs a banner outside the fire station. On January the 4th, an EMT-3 recruiter hosted an FOL at Homer High and gave students a tour of an ambulance, including a demonstration in which he gave Johnny Doan an IV drip. Among the students in the FOL was Benjamin Lowe.
“I want to help people. I want to get experience. It’d be fun to just have medical knowledge a lot of times,” Ben said, explaining why he’s taking the EMT-1 class.
The Homer Volunteer Fire Department is 90% run by volunteers, with only five paid positions in the department. Therefore, community volunteers are the primary responders to fire fighting and emergency medical services. According to Fire Chief Bob Painter, the volunteers over the years have been fishermen, contractors, veterinarians, pharmacists, and even professionals who live in Homer.
“We’re starting to see more young folks come in, which is great,” Chief Painter said during a break at the EMT class last Wednesday night. “We have the firefighter volunteers, we have EMT volunteers, and then we have a third group of volunteers that are called ‘departmental services’ that do whatever odd jobs around the station that they feel comfortable doing. One lady comes in and just empties our trash. There’s another lady that comes in and photocopies our weekly newsletters to our members and distributes that. We have other volunteers that only do public education and prevention talks, or they go to schools and do things like that. There’s a lot of different ways to volunteer and pitch in based on whatever commitment level people feel they can do.”
The EMT-1 students meet three times a week for several hours, usually out of the way of school or work time. The class costs $375, or a year of volunteer work with the department. High School Students who take the course can earn senior service hours for their time.