First Response Unit

First Response Unit

South Hero Volunteer Fire Department started the First Response Unit in 2016. The unit is a basic life support (BLS) emergency medical service. The unit is designed to support South Hero Rescue.

The unit is comprised of emergency medical responders (EMR) an emergency medical technicians (EMT) certified members.

I called for an ambulance, why did the fire department show up?

The First Response unit is an automatic mutual aid partner, we are dispatched simultaneously with South Hero Rescue. This benefits patients in multiple ways.

  • Faster Response Times: Rescue needs a minimum number of crew members on a call, First Response can respond with any number of crew, including one member. This means an EMT or EMR from first response can arrive on scene faster and sometimes before the ambulance. 
  • Shorter On Scene times: Now because first response is on scene there are fewer times where additional resources need to be requested. Before first response, rescue would arrive on scene, assess the patient, if additional assistance was needed, make a transport decision, if additional assistance was needed, SHR would initiate a second call (a Fire Department call), and wait for us to respond to the station and then to the call.
  • Faster Treatment: Like to First Responders (Rescue members who respond directly to a scene), the First Response Unit can begin assessment, and prepare the patient for the ambulance’s arrival. That may be splinting broken bone, collecting past medical history, or preparing a path through a house for the stretcher. All of this means shorter time on scene, and faster arrival at UVM Medical Center. 
  • More ‘In Service’ Time: Once a patient is loaded into the ambulance, the First Response Unit can typically return intermediately to service, If there is another emergency call while South Hero Rescue is transporting or unavailable, the First Response Unit can respond, assess and treat the next patient while waiting for a mutual aid department (Typically Grand Isle Rescue or Milton Rescue) to respond into South Hero. 

Will I get the same care?

Yes. The First Response Unit is a “Basic Life Support” (BLS) Agency. Our members are Emergency Medical Responders (EMR) and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT). We participate in the same level of continuing education as all other EMS providers. We carry all of the equipment the state requires of First Response Units around the state (Slightly different than BLS Ambulance services).

The First Response Unit shortens the time to assessment and treatment of a patient. First Response is designed to supplement the ambulance crew, not replace it. Patient care is generally turned over to the ambulance crew once they are on scene and pertinent information is relayed to the ambulance crew.   

South Hero Rescue is an “Advanced Life Support” (ALS) Agency. When staffed with members who are Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians (AEMT)s they can perform some additional treatments that EMTs cannot. However, when South Hero Rescue only has EMT level members they operate at the same level as the First Response Unit.

The fire department has always provided mutual aid to Rescue departments, typically to provide lifting assistance and Cardiac Arrest (heart attack) as members are certified in CPR, but this assistance must be requested. The addition of the First Response unit provides support for most every call.