North Shore am­bu­lance ser­vice map­ping homes

Iden­ti­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion for cab­ins, homes to be used for emer­gen­cies

The Compass - - OPINION - BYMELISSA JENK­INS Melissa.jenk­ins@tc.tc

Those who have been living for decades on the North Shore of Con­cep­tion Bay may re­mem­ber things be­ing much dif­fer­ent than they are now.

Some would likely re­call the names of their for­mer neigh­bours and chat­ting with them over a cup of tea or bak­ing bread. Some may have been fam­ily, oth­ers long­time friends.

Now, more homes have been built, peo­ple have moved out and been re­placed by oth­ers and not all neigh­bours are as close knit. In fact, there are peo­ple from all over the world with va­ca­tion homes in the re­gion and few know their names.

But how can such a densely pop­u­lated area, reach­ing from Kingston to Lower Is­land Cove, be­come more man­age­able for emer­gen­cies, es­pe­cially when many of the res­i­dents are sea­sonal? The plan now is to map the area, start­ing with West­ern Bay Line cab­ins.

Staff with North Shore Cen­tral Am­bu­lance Co-Op Ltd. have rec­og­nized the chang­ing face of neigh­bour­hoods in the re­gion. Ray Dwyer, a 26-year para­medic with the am­bu­lance ser­vice, says those changes are ob­vi­ous to first re­spon­ders.

Many res­i­dents in other out­port and ‘around the bay’ com­mu­ni­ties in the prov­ince give di­rec­tions based on the name of a per­son who lives in a nearby house.

“Twenty years ago, we’d know every­body in the com­mu­nity,” Dwyer ex­plained. “Now, there are (a lot of) ex­pa­tri­ates, sea­sonal dwellers and cabin own­ers in the area.”

Ef­fect­ing ser­vice

Dwyer re­calls a sit­u­a­tion from a short while ago where an emer­gency was called in, and the am­bu­lance driver did not know the lo­ca­tion of the home. It took a while to track some­one down who could lead them there.

“When we got there, the guy was just about gone,” Dwyer said, adding they did man­age to get there just in time.

This is only one of the is­sues that Dwyer, h i s col - leagues and the am­bu­lance ser­vice vol­un­teers have come across of late. They feel it’s go­ing to get worse with the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the new provincewide 911 sys­tem that was due to roll out in De­cem­ber. Late last month, Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices New­found­land and Labrador an­nounced the ser­vice will go live by the end of Fe­bru­ary.

“Some­one is go­ing to call 911, and then (911 op­er­a­tors) are go­ing to call us or our pager sys­tem,” Dwyer ex­plained. “We will (likely) have to call back. Then we’ll have to call the per­son who called 911, be­cause we’d want to speak to them our­selves.”

The main rea­son for the ex­tra call to the ini­tial caller is to de­ter­mine the lo­ca­tion, since it may not be pos­si­ble for some­one work­ing at a call cen­tre in St. John’s to know the dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties, ac­cord­ing to Dwyer. And the am­bu­lance ser­vice wants to save time in the event of an emer­gency, so they per­son­ally call for specifics in­stead of go­ing through a third party.

Map­ping plans

The depart­ment put a call out on its Face­book page for those with cab­ins in the West­ern Bay Line area to con­tact them with their de­tails, in­clud­ing name, phone num­ber and ad­dress.

“When we re­ceive a call for that area, we are not familiar with names or lo­ca­tions,” the post said.

But West­ern Bay Line is just the start. Dwyer and col­league Terri Lynn Eddy said the in­ten­tion is to map as much of the area as pos­si­ble.

They also con­firmed they reg­u­larly work with the North Shore Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment, help­ing out any­way they can. In do­ing so, they ex­pect the map­ping project will be a joint ven­ture.

Dwyer also con­firmed the emer­gency phone num­bers, which are printed on mag­nets and handed out each year, will still be ac­tive when 911 comes into ef­fect.

Other projects

Be­sides map­ping homes, the depart­ment is hop­ing to start a new project this year — build­ing a new garage for the am­bu­lance.

“We could use it then as a warm­ing cen­tre dur­ing emer­gen­cies,” Dwyer ex­plained. “We’d have a gen­er­a­tor, we could put on a boiler of soup.”

The project will rely heav­ily on pro­vin­cial and fed­eral grants.

“We are a not-for-profit group of vol­un­teers,” Dwyer said. “We de­pend solely on fundrais­ing to put forth our ser­vices. The grant we re­ceive from gov­ern­ment is for wages only.”

There is a hand­ful of emer­gency re­sponse staff, but most are vol­un­teer.

“The ex­tra ( funds) have to come from the gen­eral public, from which we have great sup­port,” Dwyer ex­plained.

A telethon takes place each year in April to help with ex­penses. De­tails for that event will be made avail­able through the Face­book group.

Any­one who would like to make a do­na­tion to the depart­ment or help with the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of cabin and home­own­ers in the re­gion can call 598-2155.

“Twenty years ago, we’d know every­body in the

com­mu­nity.” — Ray Dwyer, para­medic

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins/The Compass

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