Jeparit has a six member team that operates the First Responder unit formerly known as a Community Emergency Response Team. The First Responders are on call 24/7 and two members are always rostered on to respond to local calls for an ambulance. The Team has to complete training for First Responders with a ‘level 3+ first aid’ and a licence to practice Emergences First Aid. They must then maintain that level of skill with at least 50 hours training each and every year.
Ex Captain, Chris Rosewall, who is now First Lieutenant and leads the Jeparit First Responders says the team attends on average about two hundred calls per year compared to about 50 fire calls for fire.
Chris says the First Responder team are on a 10/14 roster. “They can and do turn out with the brigade to fire and other emergency calls but their main role is for events requiring ambulance attendance. It can be quite a lot of work as the team can turn out many times a week and then it may be quiet for a while,” Chris says.
The Jeparit First Responder team responds to all code one and two medical emergencies within a 40 kilometre radius of Jeparit. It can go a greater distance if needed. The team is always backed up by paid staff from Ambulance Victoria in the nearest Ambulance available which is likely to be at Horsham approximately 75 kilometres away. Chris points out that the CFA ambulance is only used as a first response vehicle and not for transporting patients Transporting of patients is handled by Ambulance Victoria.
The First Responder Team, formerly the Ambulance Auxiliary was formed about eight years ago following an accident on Christmas Day when a young boy was injured while riding a motor bike on a private property in the district. At that time, the nearest ambulance was at Horsham, almost an hour’s drive from Jeparit. “He had to wait more than an hour for an ambulance to assist due to the long distances in this part of the Wimmera regions. So we decided that we needed to do something to improve our first responder service for injured or sick patients.
The Jeparit First Responder team is managed by Ambulance Victoria’s, Sandy Kahn who is the Team Manager Grampian’s Area.
Chris adds that having a First responder team in a town the size of Jeparit is a major plus for the whole district says Chris. “If the team can get to a job in around 8 mins and it takes the full time ambulance officers anything up to 45 mins to get on scene it can only be a benefit to the people of our area,” he says. “In small towns like Jeparit, we look after ourselves and our community; you can’t rely on others to help out all the time, as is the case in some parts of country Victoria.
The Jeparit model is thought to be unique amongst CFA brigades because its ambulance auxiliary team includes all CFA volunteers’ firefighters that make up the entire ambulance auxiliary.