Vital role in saving lives with the Rugby First Responders

Feature - First Responders
Feature - First Responders

MEET the team of volunteers who are often first on the scene to give emergency help to people in Rugby.

The First Responders work with ambulances to attend 999 calls in the town.

While they are not a replacement for ambulance paramedics, they aim to bridge the gap between a 999 call being made and the arrival of an ambulance. If ambulances in Rugby are busy then the Rugby First Responders could be the first to be dispatched to the call. Rugby’s 13 responders work shifts to ensure they have the town covered at all times.

Natalie Craig works full-time as the team’s co-ordinator. She said: “I got involved because I’d always wanted to be a paramedic when I was younger. I enjoy it because when you get a call it’s an adrenaline rush and you’re heading into the unknown.

Responder recruits undergo eight days of training and assessment from the West Midlands Ambulance Service to receive a nationally recognised qualification allowing them to give life-saving emergency treatment. They hope to receive more training in the future so that they can assist at a wider variety of incidents and increase the equipment and medicines available for them to use.

Responders’ equipment includes an automated external defibrillator, oxygen, blood pressure and oxygen monitoring equipment as well as an extensive range of first aid kit. This means that when an ambulance crew arrives, the responders can pass on vital information to help paramedics decide what action to take.

All of the equipment that the responders use is paid for through charity and lottery funding, so when they’re not on duty in the town, they are drumming up support and organising fundraising events. Natalie said: “Since we became Sainsbury’s charity of the year we’ve been able to raise awareness of what we do - I think a lot of people may not have realised that we are a charity organisation. There’s still plenty of work to be done.”

One full responder kit costs over £1,000 and this comes from fundraising as well as the responders own pockets.

The car was custom made for the responders and was paid for with a lottery grant. It has a radio installed to receive emergency calls and to communicate with the ambulance control centre.

The car does have the usual ambulance markings but is not allowed to have flashing lights or sirens, they must navigate the town as a civilian vehicle, even in an emergency.

Ian Inglesant, community response manager for West Midlands Ambulance Service, said “The Rugby Responder Group have grown immensely since they formed in 2008, they have made great fundraising efforts to obtain the car and all of the groups equipment that has been put to fantastic use saving many lives. The group and the Rugby Community should be very proud of the achievements to date.”

The responders themselves come from all corners of society, they are teachers, engineers and even retired people. But they give every spare hour they can to assist the ambulance service.

As a retired nurse, joining the Rugby First Responders was ideal for 70-year-old Dave Upstone.

He said: “It’s great to work with and assist the ambulance service - we’re very professional and they treat us with respect.”

Natalie added: “When someone says ‘thank you’, that’s when I get the most satisfaction from doing this job. I don’t think I’d want to be paid to do this even if they offered.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the First Responders should visit http://rugbyfirstresponders.org/ donate.html