Clarence Town First Responders Unit calls for more members

FIRST ON SCENE: The Clarence Town Community First Responders are trained firefighters who have extra first aid training to help before an ambulance arrives.
FIRST ON SCENE: The Clarence Town Community First Responders are trained firefighters who have extra first aid training to help before an ambulance arrives.

Clarence Town residents are reaping the rewards of a unique collaboration between NSW Ambulance and NSW Rural Fire Service.

The town's Rural Fire Brigade has a team of Community First Responders - brigade officers who are trained by ambulance paramedics to render specialised medical assistance until an ambulance arrives.

Clarence Town Community First Responder Co-Ordinator Shaun Cox said the team had been operating locally for three years.

"It is a great program and has literally been life saving," he said.

"It's awesome."

All brigade members are trained firefighters before receiving extra training through the NSW Ambulance Service.

"Once the RFS members put their yellow vests on we become ambulance volunteers," he said.

"At the moment we have about 10 people trained in the Community First responders and essentially if anyone calls 000 with a life threatening emergency, or sometimes where an ambulance resource is some time away, like an hour away, they call us to be the stop-gap until the paramedics arrive."

The team has been called to incidents ranging from a road accident to cardiac arrest, severe hemorrhage, broken limbs or an asthma attack. This can be as far afield as Ferodale, Vacy, Dungog or Duns Creek.

Their general coverage area is Wallarobba, Glen Martin, Glen William, Pine Brush, Clarence Town, Glen Oak and the Limeburners Creek township.

"We are trained in cardiac arrest and CPR like a normal first aider, but we can also give the extra bits such as pain relief and medication to counteract things like asthma," said Mr Cox.

The Clarence Town team has been averaging 160 to 170 calls a year as one of less than six RFS Community First Responder units across the state.

The closest RFS Community First Responders unit is at Branxton.

There's always a call for more volunteers to join, Mr Cox said.

"We really need people who live in and very close to Clarence Town for the program to be worthwhile as the turnaround time needs to be fairly quick," he said.

"We are looking for able-bodied people who are community minded and committed to helping the community."

It was an 18-month exercise from when the program was first mooted locally to members being trained and operational. The RFS has given the unit a specific vehicle.

"We used to turn out to these things as a fire brigade and get there and do our first aid thing, but now we can do so much more," said Mr Cox.

"We have the ability to give back so much more information to the ambulance."

Mr Cox said the community had been quite receptive to the program despite the volunteers possibly being faced with treating people they know in a small town.

"They are happy that we are there and able to help out.

"We have had situations where we have had to wait for an hour and a half for back up. We always get backed up by paramedics we never go alone."

Stroud and Dungog paramedics Erika and Karen are the team's mentors who conduct regular training.

If you are interested in finding out more, call the Clarence Town RFS station on 49 964 454.