A long way from Leo's showroom and Brewster's hearse

MANCHESTER- The Manchester Rescue Squad has seen a lot in its 48-year history.

More is on the way.

The Manchester Rescue Squad is a regional not-for-profit organization serving the towns of Manchester, Dorset, East Dorset, Danby, Mt. Tabor, Rupert, East Rupert, and Winhall with support given to Londonderry, Wallingford, Springfield, and Granville, N.Y. The squad was originally formed in 1964, and with a current roster of full-time and per-diem paid staff augmented by a contingency of dedicated volunteer members, provides paramedic-level services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The rescue squad was started In August 1964 by a group of people that saw the need for an ambulance service. The first ambulance was donated by a member of the Manchester community. At that time, volunteers only needed to be first-aid certified through the American Red Cross in order to be a member. They had 24 members at that point, but could not respond to calls until November, until the course was over. Their headquarters was on the floor of Leo Motor's showroom. The backup ambulance at the time was actually Brewster's hearse from funeral services. Similar arrangements were very common when ambulance services first started throughout the country.

A lot has changed since then. Rescue squad volunteers now need advanced certification to be members, and the squad's headquarters has moved from the showroom to the safety facility behind town hall, along with the Manchester Police Department and the Manchester Fire Department.

"The minimum you need now to be a part of the rescue squad is to become certified as an emergency medical responder. It is a 40 plus hour course that you would take and that would certify you. From there you would only need 12 continuing hours of training per year," said Michael Casey, Manchester rescue squad's chief operating officer and critical care paramedic.

The rescue squad pays for training of volunteers up to an advance EMT, or emergency medical technician, with a commitment of one years of service for each level completed, and the certification process can be a long one. Potential members start off as an American Red Cross first responder, from there you can become an EMT, to an EMT intermediate, and so on. A basic EMT course runs about $500, which is covered by the rescue squad.

"Right now the rescue squad has 10 volunteers," said Casey. "Of those 10, six are active and of those six, four of them are on the schedule. I wish we had 100 volunteers."

The rescue squad has five full-time employees, along with 10 volunteers and 12 per-diem staff.

"We cover over 12,000 year-round residents, plus hundreds of summer residents and visitors, whether they have the ability to pay or not," said Seline Skoug, a rescue squad member. "We also respond to fire calls, provide stand-by coverage at community and sporting events and offer CPR/AED and first aid classes to the public. The care that the squad provides plays an important role within the healthcare system and it is our pre-hospital care that can often mean the difference."

When receiving a call, they get a call from the Rutland dispatch, who transferred the call to Manchester dispatch, which informs the Manchester Rescue Squad of the address and chief complaint. The squad then acknowledges the call and drives to the scene. When they arrive an initial assessment is done, if the patient is in a life-threatening situation interventions are done right away and they load the patient into the ambulance and continue to the nearest hospital.

While the community views the Manchester Rescue Squad as a life-saving entity, and a vital part of the town, the organization itself is struggling with the financial aspects of being a non-profit organization. Contrary to what some may think, the squad is not funded by the government. Each town does provide a stipend; however, that only covers about 7 percent of operating costs. The rest of their funding comes from donations, billing, memberships, and some fundraising.

"We need to [fund-raise] a little more consistently every year so we don't have to reach out," Casey said.

With the economy not doing well for the past handful of years, those donations are not as high as they once were, he said.

A board of trustees was established four years ago in its current format to help handle financial issues involving finances, as those became a larger burden on the squad's volunteers.

"The board of trustees was setup to help free the squad members from the day to day operations of running the financial aspect of the squad, long range planning, and setting policies and procedures," said Thomas Johnston, the chairman of the board. "Setting long term financial goals and objectives, making sure we are solvent for the long term and can continue to provide the services to our communities is important."

An issue that the rescue squad has dealt with, and why they do not think they get more funding, is that people do not know they are a non-profit organization.

"One of our biggest challenges is letting people know we are a non-profit and we are not a part of the town. Just cause you pay your taxes doesn't mean we will be here. We need donations to stay afloat," Casey said.

Those donations will be used to fund items on the rescue squad's short list: 3-cardiac automatic defibrillators and monitors, reflective and waterproof blood borne pathogen protective safety jackets, medical supplies, communications equipment, educational supplies and training, and vehicle maintenance for three ambulances and one first responder vehicle.

They do provide CPR classes, first aid classes, AED training. They also provide coverage for community events, education to local schools and equinox terrace. They also offer support to the fire department for every fire call, the Maple Leaf Marathon, the car show, and answer any requests from the community.

Although they need donations, they understand that the financial burden people are experiencing while in a recession has hindered the number of donations received.

"We certainly appreciate the support we've had from the communities because we consider the squad to be apart of the communities and that we are integrated throughout the whole fabric of the communities," Johnston said. "Not only the financial support, but the logistical support and the membership that comes from the communities as well. It would be in everyone's best interest if people consider helping the squad in any way they can with any specific talent that might be. I think anybody that has any kind of skills can help. This organization requires printing, mechanical work on vehicles, and all other things that run any kinds of businesses."

while the Manchester Rescue Squad provides a service to the community, members in turn draw a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, he said.

"The most rewarding part of the job is knowing your helping the community," said Casey. "For me personally, it's when you arrive at somebody's house and they see you and they have this feeling and look of relief that 'all right they are here I'm going to be safe, I'm going to be taken care of'." For more information about the squad, call 802-362-1995.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions