Today is Saturday, May 25, 2013
Merlys Eckman, the former Emergency Services Coordinator for Beltrami County, first began putting the North Country First Responders together in 1989. The first members of the NCFR graduated from training in 1990. NCFR was incorporated on September 12, 1998.
The North Country First Responders are a group of volunteers who are trained as First Responders and EMTs to care for those involved in crashes and medical emergencies. Our volunteers respond, often in the middle of the night, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to those in need. These are your friends and neighbors who save lives on a daily basis. We are paged out, per established protocols, by the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency 911 Communications Center whenever a situation arises where medical attention is needed.
In addition, our volunteers provide emergency medical response at events such as the Beltrami County Fair, Dragon Boat races and other such community affairs. We are also members of the Beltrami County Sheriffs Emergency Operations Team. First Responders are often first on the scene and advise the ambulance of what further response is needed. This is especially critical for those who have only a few minutes to live and need that instant availability of medical intervention. For those in rural areas this is crucial. Our 911 Center averages 5‐10 medical emergencies and crashes per day and many of these involve First Responder response.
North Country First Responders cover an area bounded by 27 townships in Beltrami County and 3 in Hubbard County. From the Clearwater County line to east on the south reservation boundary to the Itasca and Cass County line, and 7 miles north of Blackduck to 6 miles south into Hubbard County is the area responded to.
Since we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit group and are all volunteer, we rely solely on donations for support. Our expenses include communications devices such as portable radios ($850.00 each) and pagers ($125.00 each); medical equipment including defibrillators ($2500.00 each), stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, and other high end equipment; and First Aid supplies such as bandages, oxygen, splints, and blankets. In addition, we pay monthly pager fees to maintain critical emergency communications with our 911 center as well as repair fees for any equipment and maintenance costs such as batteries ($250.00 for each defibrillator as an example) and carrying bags. Forty (40) hours of training is required to become a First Responder and twenty (20) hours every two years is required for recertification (all of which is volunteer time but we pay for instructors and the costs involved to recertify).
It is a huge commitment of time, energy and lost family time, to take on the responsibility of being a First Responder. Members also use their own vehicles and provide their own gas and mileage.
Due to retiring founding charter members, our numbers were down but we have re-organized and are grateful to have 7 new members, in addition to our core group of 16, this year and more who are interested. Background checks and credentialing is conducted by the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management for each new member to ensure that all members are suited for the volunteer position.
We have established, new this year, a central cache of supplies for our responders as well as an updated inventory system.
We have been fortunate to obtain grants in the past, and we continue to apply for any and all grants that are available, but that source is becoming more difficult to tap. We also hold our own fundraisers with very limited success.
Therefore, we are requesting that our townships (and many of you have been very generous with support for our group) consider donating or continuing to donate to our group to support the cause. A donation of any amount, per township, would assure that we can continue our service. I realize this is very tough economic times and we are all feeling the pinch but would so appreciate your support in any amount.
If you have questions, we would be glad to answer any and all. We need and appreciate your support. Donations can be sent to the address listed here in care of Beryl Wernberg.
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