Could You Be One of the Ones?

By Allison Mowatt

truck2With the recently launched recruitment marketing campaign called One of the Ones, Pike County officials are hoping to raise awareness about the importance of the need for more volunteer emergency responders.

“We’re looking to retain existing membership and increase our volunteer base through this county-wide program and also spark an interest in our youth,” said Commissioner Caridi.

He gave an idea of just how important such a program is to the county. “Over a decade ago, the Commonwealth had about 300,000 volunteers,” he said. “Now the Commonwealth has about 50,000.”

laddersThe reason for the decline is many families require two incomes, leaving little time for the training drills required and time spent on emergency calls. This fact is compounded particularly in Pike County because it is the fastest growing county in Pennsylvania, bringing twice as many emergency calls with not enough volunteers to handle everything from fighting fires to raising funds for the companies.

The demand for county emergency service volunteers continues to increase. People can volunteer in a variety of capacities including firefighter, EMT, underwater rescue, heavy rescue, driver, administrative personnel, and grant writer.

This campaign is one the Commissioner earnestly discussed and planned for two years. In March, the Commissioners approved a contract with Canned Fire, Inc., a professional marketing firm, operated by Steve Powell. They purchased the program for about $43,000, and the One of the Ones campaign launched in September.

In order to engage the community and spread the word, county emergency training personnel made a professional video, which includes Pike County firefighters proclaiming what it means to be a volunteer emergency responder. The video is currently available online and will also be advertised on local television and radio. In addition, posters and brochures are available.

Pike County is the first county within the Commonwealth to initiate this program, which includes its eighteen fire companies. County officials and volunteers visited the three school districts within Pike, and now these schools feature emergency responder clubs. “Anyone fifteen years and up who wants to help is our target audience,” said Jordan Wisniewski, Operations and Training Manager at the Pike County Training Center. He is also a fellow officer of a local volunteer fire department.

flash3The Center on Route 739 opened in 2012 and is the hub for training and instruction for fire, ambulance, and police personnel. It is a professional state of the art multi-purpose training facility accessible to all emergency services personnel throughout the county. The three-story facility is beneficial to local EMTs, first responders, firefighters an,d police since before it opened, there was no place for volunteers to train locally. The center offers training for real life scenarios in rappelling and also hostage and forced entry situations. In addition, there are classrooms, a storage facility, and fire training tower for practicing live burns and evacuations. There is also a spot for a helipad and a storm water retention pond for practicing pump operations. The facility is vital in protecting the entire community and emergency service volunteers who put their lives at risk. “We want to give them every possible tool to save their lives and our lives,” said Commissioner Caridi.

OCT SBS2About eight years ago, the Commissioners helped form a group called the Emergency Service Training Facility Task Force with representatives from ambulance, police, and fire departments throughout the county who’ve met on a regular basis to discuss ways to attract additional volunteers. “With the One of the Ones campaign, we’re trying to roll off a recognition program where businesses and their owners can give thanks to the men and women who sacrifice time away from their loved ones to train and answer calls,” said Mr. Wisniewski. “They can offer discounts, rewards programs, or free merchandise. This is a policed program and each volunteer will have ID that states which agency they’re with.”

To get involved, visit your local agency and mention you’re interested in the One of the Ones program and in what field.

To find out how you can Be One of the Ones, fill out an application, view the campaign video or other details, visit www.pikesbravest.org or call (570) 296-1960.

Everything Fire Safety

Everything Fire Safety

EverythingFireSafetyNov13

The American Red Cross—Help When Disaster Strikes

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By Allison Mowatt

“We’re always ready to serve and we’re just a phone call away,” said Michele Baehr, Executive Director of the Eastern PA Region of the American Red Cross.

The American Red Cross is a not for profit organization providing shelter, food, and emotional support to victims of disasters, nationally and internationally. Locally, the Wayne/Pike Chapter of the American Red Cross operated out of the Hawley Silk Mill in Wayne County until the end of last year when the chapter office closed in order to save money spent on rent and make better use of donor dollars. Now, these counties are sharing assistance with Monroe and Pike counties under the American Red Cross of the Pocono Mountains, which now encompasses all four counties. All administrative functions for Wayne, Pike, Carbon, and Monroe counties are handled out of the Pocono Chapter office in Stroudsburg.

According to Ms. Baehr, this restructuring has not affected the level of service or care. “It was a seamless transition,” she said. “We haven’t missed a beat in serving the community. Most of the work is carried out in the field. The main difference is the Red Cross staff utilizes space at the Northern Pocono Chamber of Commerce office for open houses seeking volunteers and holds monthly meetings at local emergency management centers such as the Pike County Training Center.

The American Red Cross does not receive any federal funding and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the public for monetary donations. “We rely solely on the goodwill of the community,” said Ms. Baehr. “This remains vital as emergency response can be costly with mass care services.”

Ms. Baehr said 100% of the funds donated by the community will come back to that community when it’s needed. If a mass disaster occurs and more funds are required, then the Red Cross helps out on a national level.

In the event of a disaster, the Red Cross provides immediate assistance with shelter, food, clothing, and connecting people with resources to help them get on their feet. “When we get that call, we go straight to the people and help out any way we can,” said Ms. Baehr. The Red Cross provides victims with a debit card, which allows them to pay for a local hotel and shop for food and clothing at nearby stores. “We give them the financial support they require right at that moment.”

About 95% of the organization’s manpower is comprised of volunteers. People can offer their time and skills in any capacity. “You don’t have to be a nurse of phlebotomist,” said Ms. Baehr. “You can assist at the canteens during a blood drive and give people a smile and a hug or hand them juice and a cookie to get their sugar levels up. People skilled in data entry can help with administrative duties. Another avenue of volunteering is representing the American Red Cross during community events through spreading awareness.

Volunteers can help where they live or offer assistance in remote locations. For deployment, the Red Cross provides specific training at a national and international level. Most recently, about five local volunteers went to South Carolina to aid with the flood victims through thirty-five mass care shelters.

With improvements in technology, it’s easier for volunteers to find out ways they can help.   Anyone with a smart phone can now download free apps, which alert them of local blood drives and emergencies occurring nearby.

In addition to emergency response for relief during a fire, flood, or other natural disaster, some services available to the community include classes and training in CPR and first aid, Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training, blood drives, baby-sitting seminars, programs about fire safety at local schools and elderly care facilities, and community events. The money from the training or classes helps fund disaster relief, so it all gets recycled and helps the community in all aspects.

Ms. Baehr said visiting local school districts is something the Red Cross plans to continue. Last year, the Red Cross educated over 400 area elementary school students about emergency preparedness. They helped them think of meeting places and escape routes and advised them not to hide. The organization also shows them how to stay calm with breathing techniques, thinking logically in an emergency, and educating their families.

Fundraisers also remain important. Anyone can hold a fundraiser and be hero for the American Red Cross. This past August, the Red Cross received $800 from the Paupack Sailing Club during the Sailboat Rides, which took place during Wally Lake Fest.

For information on volunteering or donating, visit www.redcross.org or call (570) 476-3800.

Upcoming Blood Drive: The Inn at Woodloch Pines on November 9th from 1 to 6 p.m., 731 Welcome Lake Road, Hawley PA 18428