Could you join Norfolk's team of life-saving first responders?
- Credit: Stalham First Responder Group
First responders are calling for more volunteers to join their life-saving service.
They can be on the scene of an incident within minutes - even in rural areas of Norfolk, where the nearest ambulance station could be 10 miles away.
Trained in life-saving techniques by the ambulance service, first responders can deal with anything from treating life or death situations to just offering reassurance until an ambulance arrives.
With calls prioritised to the most life threatening, an elderly person suffering a fall could have to wait some hours for assistance.
But a first responder using specialist equipment could have them safely up and back to a safe environment within 20 minutes.
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Responders are unpaid volunteers who give up their time for the benefit of their community, receiving no allowances or expenses. There are currently vacancies in King's Lynn, Downham Market, Cromer, Watton and Wells.
One group is based in Stalham, north Norfolk. Over the last eight months the 20-strong group has crewed a dedicated response vehicle which has attended emergencies as far afield as Cromer, Great Yarmouth and Norwich.
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Its longest-serving member is co-ordinator Tim Thirst, who became a responder in 2008 and has been awarded two ambulance chief officer's commendations for outstanding patient care.
"The Responders in our group have a diverse range of backgrounds and ages which gel together to make a fantastic team," he said. "The Covid pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone.
"A number of our group were shielding, mainly due to family members being in the 'at risk' category. I am proud that in 2020 during the most difficult of times, our first responders still managed to volunteer for an extraordinary 11,751 operational hours, an increase on their 2019 record. What a fantastic achievement."
After interview and successfully passing their initial training responders become members of a local group where they undertake regular training and upskilling.
Groups are responsible for raising the money necessary to purchase the medical kit that their members carry.
Equipping them with defibrillators, pulse oximeters, blood pressure machines and special lifting chairs can cost more than £7,000. The Stalham First Responder Group has raised more than £100,000 to buy equipment.
To apply to join, go online to https://www.eastamb.nhs.uk/join-the-team/community-first-responders.