When there is a medical emergency they're usually the first ones on the scene, and their work can be the difference between life and death.
It's not always North Ambulance or an area fire department. It's area first responders, of which there are about 20 crews in the Brainerd area, and now they are seeking help from others.
A volunteer group, the number of first responders has been dwindling in the past few years, leaving areas of southern Cass and Crow Wing counties without proper coverage.
"Unless people volunteer up here, people won't be getting the benefit (of the first responders)," said Allen Smith, and EMS educator with North Memorial Health Care, which provides training for first responders.
In rural places like the Brainerd area, first responders crews play an important role saving lives. They are paged out at the same time as ambulance crews, but because of their location throughout the area, they usually arrive at the scene sooner than other emergency personnel.
Armed with defibrillators, oxygen and other medical equipment, first responders provide care in the critical first minutes of a medical situation, said Kevin Lee, medical transportation supervisor with North Memorial Ambulance.
"They're usually able to get there quicker than the ambulance," said Lee. "They play a huge role in basic-level care until we get there."
But because of the cost -- equipment alone can be $2,500 -- the time involved and the lack of compensation, first responders are becoming fewer.
An example is Longville, which is in danger of losing its volunteer ambulance service because there aren't enough volunteers to work it. And in the Longville area, where the nearest hospital is 60 miles away and ambulance run times can last up to three hours, the need for volunteers has become desperate, said Wilma Griffin of the Longville Ambulance Service.
Because they are volunteers, first responders are also in need of funding. Many first responders get money from local service organizations or through government grants. That money is used for not only for new equipment but training, which itself can be several hundreds of dollars.
"It's true volunteerism," Bill Kronstedt of the Southeast First Responders said.
And at the end of the day, first responders are hoping for a little recognition of their work.
"For the community to know we're out there, that's the main thing," said Val Smude of the Nokasippi First Responders.
To volunteer either time or money, contact Smith at North Memorial EMS Education at 218-829-8767.
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