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Two firsts in Almont


Inaugural First Responder group readies for testing



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January 27, 2010
ALMONT TWP. — Close to 20 residents have nearly completed their medical first responder training.

All that's left for the trainees is a series of testing that will give them the credentials and put them on the national registry of first responders.

These volunteers will be dispatched to medical emergencies within the township to treat and stabilize a patient in advance of a Lapeer County EMS ambulance.

"This is a wonderful thing and we've needed it for so long," trainee Elda Neville said.

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Almont’s Medical First Responder team includes instructor Wally Wheaton, Derek Stine, Elda Neville, Ryan Feys, Amy VanValkenburg, Bob Donner, Michael Alfonsi, Bonnie Kunik, Doug Donner, Kelly Spanske, Mary Beth Armbruster, Janaea Smith, Nick Dudas, Melissa Garner and Jeff Ludwig. Not pictured are Rob Armbruster and Francine Lowell. photo by Maria Brown.

"When it can be life or death, first responders can make a difference."

Since the early 90s, when Muir's Funeral Home discontinued their service, the Almont area has been without a local ambulance crew. The closest county station is in Imlay City but depending on call volume, response time can vary.

About a year ago, the township began in earnest to develop a medical first responder program. About 25 people showed interest in participating in the service. Training began in late August, twice a week, every week for a total of five months with Lapeer County EMS Paramedic Wally Wheaton as instructor.

Wheaton, who's been an instructor for more than 40 years, said his students have been great and the residents will benefit from their service.

"It's a big step for this community," Wheaton said.

"You should be very proud."

The trainees share the same respect for Wheaton and presented him with a plaque last week to show their appreciation.

Township Supervisor Paul Bowman said the board committed to budgeting $65,000 to establish the first responder program. So far they've spent close $30,000 for a 2001 Ford ambulance, a defibrillator, pagers and various medical equipment and supplies.

"We're not done yet," Bowman said.

"We still need to buy uniforms and have written a grant to buy radios."

Although they'll be using an ambulance, Almont's first responders will not transport patients to the hospital but Bowman said they chose to purchase it in case they ever transition to a full-fledged EMS program.

The township realized a significant savings when the Lapeer County EMS board offered to cover the training costs in honor of late fire Chief Paul Wilcox, something they "appreciated very much," Bowman added. All the township had to purchase were books for the class.

Once the trainees complete their testing and are registered, the township will need to apply for licensing through the state. Bowman said they hope first responders will starting taking calls in March.

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.
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