Volunteers needed!

The setting up of the scheme was a magnificent community achievement, but now that it is up and running, more people are needed to train as Community First Responders, act as committee members or support us by coming up with good fundraising ideas to meet the continuing costs of the scheme.

All volunteers are required to complete an application for a Criminal Records Bureau enhanced level clearance. Applications by individuals that have previous criminal convictions, including serious motoring offences (i.e. drink driving) will be declined. Applicants who when applying do not disclose details of previous offences (even at more minor levels) will be declined.

Volunteer Responders can be male or female, must have access to a car and be able to attend emergency calls from either their home or place of work in Felixstowe or the surrounding area as soon as they are received, in a similar way to which retained firefighters or volunteer RNLI staff or other volunteer emergency services operate. A key factor is that a Community First Responder must be able to work together with others as part of a community team.

Each Responder normally commits a certain amount of time per week to be on duty, on a rota basis. While a Responder is on call they can continue with their normal day to day activities while in the local area, but must be ready to drop everything and attend a call should one arise while they are on duty. While on duty the responder carries the medical equipment with them in their car, plus an Ambulance Service mobile phone to alert them to 999 call outs.

A volunteer Responder needs to be reliable, trust worthy, good under pressure, able to remain calm in emergency situations, be caring when dealing with patients and have a good level of physical fitness. Previous medical or first aid experience is an advantage, but is not essential, as extensive initial and on-going training and assessment is provided by East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust.

Remember: you can still join the group and help us with clerical or fundraising activities without having to attend patients.

If you are interested in finding out more about joining Felixstowe First Responders please contact us.

FAQs for anyone looking to join

I'd like to be a Community Responder but I am not sure how much time I can give?

Community Responders work in a team of people who all live and / or work with in a certain area. They take it in turns to be 'on call' when they can and fit it in around other commitments. So you can give as much or as little time as you like and still be an important member of the team.

What sort of person makes a good Community Responder?

Community Responders come from many different walks of life. They have very different careers, interests and religious beliefs. Community Responders must all have in common the ability to relate to different people and understand how they may react when unwell. They must be of a caring nature but able to act quickly. As Community Responders are called to care for people in their hour of need they must also have honesty and integrity.

Is there an age limit for becoming a Community Responder?

No but you will need to have a driving license. You will also need a responsible and mature outlook to become a Community Responder due to the nature of the calls you may be attending. We do not set an upper age limit but Community Responders will need to pass all elements of the course including performing resuscitation which will require good mobility.

Is the role physically demanding?

Sometimes. Performing resuscitation is tiring and the patient may not be in the ideal location. However most people with a reasonable level of fitness can carry out the duties required.

Will I have to lift and carry?

No you will not be asked to lift or carry any patients in your role as a Community Responder. You will have a kit bag when you are 'on call' but this is kept as light as possible and you will be given guidance on the best way to move the equipment.

Do I need any previous First Aid or Medical training?

No. All the training you require will be covered during the training course. Obviously if you have first aid experience then it will be useful but many people become successful responders who have never had any previous training.

What if I am a Nurse, Paramedic or have extra training through the VAS or a private firm, will I be able to apply my skills whilst Responding?

No. Although previous training is advantageous it is important to remain focused on why we have Community Responders. We will mobilise you to calls where evidence shows that effective Basic Life Support measures combined with Early Defibrillation are needed prior to the arrival of an Ambulance. It is then our responsibility to get Advanced skills to you as soon as possible. We therefore require all responders to work to our protocols whilst responding on our behalf.

What training will I have to do for this role?

The ambulance service will provide an initial training course. This will cover all the elements required for the role. The trainer will be an experienced Training Officer who will be able to share their experience and expertise to build your skill and confidence. Training is usually delivered over two evenings and then a weekend day. We then offer regular updates to build on your initial course and keep you regularly refreshed. It is recommended that you spend a shift with an ambulance crew to build experience and knowledge. We require you to update your skills at least every six months.

Will I be a Paramedic?

No. The role of the Paramedic is complex and takes years to achieve. The title is protected under law. However the part a Community Responder plays is vital. What is done in the initial minutes after a life threatening emergency occurs can buy time until the Paramedic can arrive and continue care. This teamwork approach is called the 'chain of survival' and you will be taught about it on your course.

Will I go to all 999 calls in my area?

No. Community Responders are trained to deal with specific emergencies where it has been identified that certain skills applied early on can make a difference. Calls would include, someone needing resuscitation, someone who has become unconscious, someone with chest pain or breathing difficulties. You would not knowingly be sent to any situation that may be dangerous or beyond your training. For example you would not be asked to attend a Road Traffic Accident, an Assault or someone giving birth.

Will I receive any payment for my Community Responder role?

No. The role is entirely voluntary and due to the size of scheme we are not able to pay expenses. However we endeavour to hold training in convenient locations to minimise travelling and as an 'on call' Community Responder you would only be called to emergencies close to your home.

I think I am interested in a career in the ambulance service but am not currently in a position to apply - is becoming a volunteer a good thing to do?

Yes. Applicants who have had volunteering experience especially in a caring role are favoured for full time positions within the ambulance service. As a volunteer Community Responder you will get a good insight into how the ambulance service operates and what the role of the ambulance crews is. We also encourage you to spend at least one shift with an ambulance crew.

Will I get a blue light for my car?

No. Community Responders respond to calls that are local to where they live and must obey the Highway Code and the Road Traffic Act at all times. It takes many weeks to train in emergency driving techniques and this is not necessary for Community Responder work.

Will I make a difference by volunteering?

Yes! The more volunteers we have the more likely it is life saving skills arrive quickly for those who need them. When a persons heart stops they lose up to 20% chance of survival for every minute they wait for defibrillation. You will carry an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). By arriving just two minutes before an ambulance and using your AED you could raise the patients chance of survival by 40%!

What if I use the AED when it's not needed, can I get it wrong and make the situation worse?

No. The Automated function on the Defibrillator will talk you through the process. It will tell you verbally whether or not to deliver the shock. If it says 'no shock' then it will not deliver one even if you press the button. So you can only do good.

What support is there once I am qualified?

It is likely that you will become part of a scheme made up of other volunteers who live and / or work near you. One of the volunteer members will act as coordinator and will organise local activities and provide support. Your coordinator will attend monthly meetings at ambulance HQ and then update your scheme on developments. Your scheme will also have a liaison officer from the ambulance service that is usually a member of the local ambulance station. They will support your scheme and answer any questions you may have. If you attend an upsetting call out then a range of support is available and you will be told of this during training. Someone is available from the ambulance service 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Everyone talks about suing people these days, what happens if someone says I did it wrong?

Most people are grateful of your help, it is unheard of for Community Responders to be sued and unusual even for professional staff. The calls you attend are those where you can only make things better with little or no scope for 'doing the wrong thing'. For someone to have any legal case they must first prove that your actions made the situation worse. When dealing with life threatening situations such as resuscitation, where someone who is left will certainly die, it is inconceivable how anyone could make the situation worse than it already is. Having said that as a Community Responder with the Ambulance Service you will be afforded the same legal protection as any of our employed staff.

Is it scary to attend a 999 call?

Anyone who says they do not feel a little nervous about their first call out won't be telling the truth. However the training is designed to prepare you for the situations you will be dealing with, we also encourage you to spend at least one shift working with an ambulance crew to gain experience and confidence. It is worth knowing that although you will be trained to deal with the worst case scenario, many 999 calls turn out to be far more routine than at first thought - and an ambulance crew will always be close behind you.

Will I work alone?

Community Responders operate as part of a team. Usually a number of people who live or work in a certain town or village. They meet regularly to discuss call outs, plan 'on call' time and to train together. Some schemes organise publicity and social events. Larger schemes operate a buddy system where two Community Responders attend call outs together, however it is likely that you may at sometime have to attend calls on your own, but an ambulance crew will never be far behind.

How often will I be called out?

It is very difficult to predict how often Community Responders will be called upon. Sudden medical illness can occur at anytime so when available you could be called out at anytime of day or night. You may go a couple of weeks with no calls and then have two or three in a day. It is very variable.

Will I wear a uniform?

No but you will be given a lightweight jacket and ID to identify you as a Community Responder. As time is of the essence and you may be called upon from home or work it is not practical to get into a uniform.

Can I do what I want when I become a Community Responder?

No. Just like your colleagues on the ambulances you as a volunteer will be required to follow rules and procedures. These are there to protect you, the patient and the integrity of the scheme. They are common sense and you will be provided with guidance documents about what is required of you as a Community Responder.

When I am trained and go 'on call', how do I hear about emergencies?

When someone dials 999 for an ambulance in your area, the nearest ambulance resource will be sent, the ambulance control will then notify any 'on call' Community Responder by means of mobile phone.

Why do we need Community Responders?

Evidence shows that getting someone trained in basic life saving skills to the scene of an emergency as quickly as possible can significantly increase the number of people who survive. Someone has a heart attack every two minutes in the UK and around 140 000 people die each year so heart disease is the biggest killer. By having lots of volunteers trained they can often get to emergencies near where they live or work before the ambulance. In the case of someone whose heart has stopped, they lose up to 20% for every minute they wait for an AED.

Will an ambulance always be sent as well?

Yes. Community Responders are as well as, not instead of, the ambulance... an ambulance will attend every emergency call.

If I arrive and the situation seems under control can I stop the ambulance coming?

No. To be on the safe side an ambulance will always attend. Not every call will turn out to be as serious as first thought but it is still important that the patient receives a thorough assessment by the ambulance crew.

I like what I have read and would like to apply, what do I do now?

Contact the Responder Co-ordinator here for an application pack. Once your application is received you will be contacted to see when you can attend training. Please be patient if it takes you some time to go live as a responder but you can be sure you will make a big difference once you are up and running.

Thank you and good luck.

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