Community members wish to start first responders in Mt. Hope

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The Mt. Hope Fire Department currently responds to accidents, lift assists, etc. in the immediate Mt. Hope area. A small group of citizens are trying to get a first responders group started to help out and hopefully increase response times in the community. (Courier Press file photo)

By Correne Martin 


First responders’ primary responsibilities are to quickly and competently assess a situation and determine what other emergency personnel need to know upon their arrival.

In the small community of Mt. Hope, residents experiencing an emergency situation must currently wait for West Grant EMS to respond from Bloomington or Woodman First Responders—both of which are small departments traveling at least 10 miles on windy roads. 

Or the Mt. Hope Fire Department can be dispatched, but its numbers are down to about 17 active men, and many of them work out of town.

Another option Mt. Hope residents are hoping to accomplish would be to start their own first responders group. Such a group could greatly reduce response times to emergency calls where an individual is having a medical issue, or has been severely injured. 

First responders provide medical care at the scene to help stabilize the individual. They do not transport those in need, but if there was a local first responder group in place, they could arrive to a person in need much sooner, and get a person ready for when an ambulance would arrive.

First responders in Grant County is not a new concept, with most being in areas near the edges of rescue squad coverage zones. In addition to Woodman, Bagley and Glen Haven each have first responder groups.

The most recent of those groups is the one in Glen Haven, which was started in 2013. That group sits on the edge of the West Grant and Cassville rescue squad zones. That group does not have a vehicle, and instead equips active members with crash kits on-call members carry on them so they can go directly to the scene, without having to travel to the firehouse first.

Behind the charge to get the endeavor going is Cindy French, who was born and raised in Mt. Hope and happens to be married to the fire chief, Rick French, who is also a hometown guy. Cindy has been a school teacher for more than 20 years and is certified in CPR, AED use and other emergency skills. She pointed to several crashes and medical emergencies over recent years where she’s either gone or could have gone to the scene as a good samaritan.

Also active in record keeping for the fire department, Cindy shared her insistence to do something about the need for first responders with the firefighters, as well as some of their spouses. Cindy rallied 16 people from the village who share her interest in taking the 70 hours of training necessary to become certified as emergency medical responders. She also consulted a few members of the West Grant EMS. 

Then, Cindy continued her research by contacting Southwest Tech in Fennimore about offering the emergency medical responder course.

What she didn’t realize is that the cost, per person, to take the class is $395. That would equal more than $6,000 for the instruction and materials. 

“Some of the people are couples, so that’s $800 per family,” Cindy said. “Why does it have to be so expensive?”

And that is just for the training. Crash kits for responders likely would double that amount.

After speaking with Steve Braun, Grant County Emergency Management director, Cindy learned that grants may be available for some of the start-up equipment necessary to originate a Mt. Hope First Responders group. She noted that, for a while, the volunteers could have calls paged to their cell phones, but that wouldn’t be good practice permanently. 

The cost of the class is still likely going to be prohibitive for a number of those interested in joining the organization. 

Cindy said she’s uneasy about the idea of a letter campaign seeking donations, “especially since the fire department already canceled its fundraising this year” because members felt bad asking for money when COVID-19 was already causing financial strain on community members. 

“To send letters out to the entire Mt. Hope fire district, it’s 600 letters. That’s several hundred dollars just in stamps.”

Cindy is looking into the possibility of Mt. Hope’s people joining together with the Woodman First Responders. Their chief, Gerald Berge, welcomed the idea and said they used to have 12 EMTs but are down to four. 

“It would really be nice if we can find a way for us to do this together, as a community, so we can then be there for those who need us,” she stated. 

Anyone interested in helping the first responders get started with time, money or effort can contact Cindy French at (608) 988-6875.

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