New Paltz Rescue Squad expands free training sessions for community

Members of the New Paltz Rescue Squad (L-R): Nate Herring-Trott, Marisa Galella, Ahren Robertson and Dan Reiser. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Members of the New Paltz Rescue Squad (L-R): Nate Herring-Trott, Marisa Galella, Ahren Robertson and Dan Reiser. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Since 1973, the New Paltz Rescue Squad (NPRS) has been this community’s first responder to all sorts of medical emergencies. In 1987 it graduated from a Basic Life Support to an Advanced Life Support service provider, and nowadays has at least a three-member crew on duty at its North Putt Corners Road headquarters 24/7. It operates three ambulances, one auto extrication rescue vehicle and one emergency service vehicle (fly car).

So if you live in New Paltz and you wake up at 3 a.m. with a terrible pain in your chest, you know who ya gonna call. But did you know that you can also learn from NPRS trainers how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) yourself, for free? That’s just one of the service improvements added to the agency’s roster in recent months, and there are more to come.

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“There has been a big overhaul,” says paramedic Chad Burkhart. “There are a few things that are new. We’ve redone the training center upstairs, and we’re looking to do community education and outreach programs every month.”

Burkhart first received Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training about ten years ago as a volunteer ambulance driver for the Town of Newburgh’s rescue squad. He then went to work for Mobile Life as a dispatcher, obtained further training, became certified as a paramedic and began teaching EMT classes. Last fall he was hired as a full-time paramedic by the New Paltz Rescue Squad, and this past May was named education coordinator and put in charge of Quality Improvement/Quality Assurance as well. That means “going over patient care reports and making sure they’re handled well,” with an eye toward always improving services.

Since then Burkhart has been working to revive a public CPR training program that had previously existed but “took a backseat” to other priorities for a while. “It’s my pet project to do more community outreach,” he says. The CPR classes now take place the first Saturday of each month as part of the orientation process for newly recruited volunteers, but anyone from the community is invited to attend and learn how to save a life through Hands-Only CPR and how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

“We would like more community members to get involved in CPR training,” Burkhart says. He has recently reached out to the resident assistants for all the dorms on the SUNY New Paltz campus and offered them the training free of charge. And last month, he says, “We did a session with the New Paltz High School Phys Ed staff and coaches.” These staff members were already required to know how to resuscitate, but not to pass that knowledge on to others. So now, thanks to NPRS, “They’ve all been trained to teach students to do Hands-Only CPR and AED. It’s a mandate from the Board of Regents now.”

It is Burkhart’s hope that CPR training, and training to train others, will soon become a standard part of the high school Physical Education curriculum. “I’m really excited about it. The more people that know CPR, the better,” he says.

Also starting up at NPRS’s newly refurbished training facility is a bimonthly series of Medical Control/Continuing Medical Education sessions that will be open to all interested parties. “They’re designed for providers in and out of the agency, but we’re offering them to the community at large,” notes Burkhart. “We had the first one last month. A doctor from Kingston Hospital talked about trauma.” Attendees were trained to look for “patterns of injuries” that are likely to co-occur in specific types of trauma situations: “a rollover MVA [motor vehicle accident], for example.”

Another session in this series of trainings will be offered in December, with a topic yet to be announced. “We want to do them every other month, and we’re looking for input from the community about what they want to learn,” says Burkhart. “This Rescue Squad is the community’s Rescue Squad.” Anyone with ideas for future training sessions is invited to call (845) 255-1719 or visit the website at www.newpaltzrescue.org and click on “Contact Us.”

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