A first responder could be anybody, but most of the time they have special training to assist residents with their emergency.
According to Wikipedia, “A first responder is a person with specialized training who is among the first to arrive and provide assistance at the scene of an emergency, such as an accident, natural disaster, or terrorist attack.”
Alan Radcliffe, Franklin County emergency management director, said there are two categories of first responders: those day-to-day first responders — which are typically law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services and the 911 dispatch center — and the array of residents that volunteer to assist those first responder agencies.
“By and large they are all volunteer fire departments [in the county],” Radcliffe said. “We have 140 firefighters in those eight departments. They volunteer their time, not only to answer the fire calls, but to do maintenance on the trucks, make sure all the equipment they have is available ready to respond to any emergency. They also go to training all the time. All three of our law enforcement agencies in the county have volunteers. The sheriff has reserves, the Ottawa PD has their volunteers that assist them and reserves at Wellsville Police Department.
“We have a lot of people in the county that volunteer their time to first response agencies to assist their neighbors, friends and family when they have that time they need assistance.”
The Ottawa Herald in the Weekender edition has a special section devoted to honoring First Responders throughout the county.
First responders must be trained to deal with a wide array of potential medical emergencies. Because of the high level of stress and uncertainty associated with the position, first responders must maintain physical and mental health.
Radcliffe said many residents first contact with a first responder is through the 911 dispatch center.
“The first person you are going to talk to is your 911 dispatcher,” Radcliffe said. “From that point, your 911 dispatcher takes the information you give them and they get information [out], depending on where you live, to who is responsible for that area. We have eight rural fire departments and the Ottawa fire department. We have one county-wide ambulance service.
“We receive several thousand phone calls into our dispatch center monthly. They are all pretty busy. There’s lots of calls our responders go to every day and every month.”
Radcliffe said other agencies come into play during huge events such as a large fire, flood, tornadoes or other disasters.
“Emergency management comes into play if it becomes a large emergency or disaster,” he said. “We come in and make sure they have the resources and coordination that is needed on a large fire or large law enforcement incident. We help support those first response agencies. During a disaster, you have additional first responders that will come in, that is your public works, emergency management, other agencies that assist with large emergencies or disaster.”
Radcliffe said first responders should not be taken for granted.
“I want to thank all the responders we have in the county protecting and taking their time [for us],” he said. “[Some] get paid and it is a job, but it takes a special person to do the different jobs they have. I appreciate all their work they do for the [residents] in the county.”
Volunteer Training: The United Way of Franklin and Anderson counties is sponsoring a two-day training course to assist first responders. The Red Cross training is set for April 5 and 6 in Ottawa. Friday’s training is from 2-5 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To register, contact Leigh Hanson at firstname.lastname@example.org.