“They will be coming up and filling the weekday positions that are not filled by the Point Roberts or Tsawwassen EMTs we currently have,” chief Christopher Carleton said. One paramedic and three EMTs from the Ferndale fire department have volunteered.
The need for more manpower was highlighted by a September 14 medical call when Carleton, a paramedic, was initially the only responder. Carleton activated B.C. Ambulance Service and Airlift Northwest, and was joined on-scene by former chief Bill Skinner and a CBP officer. Both sheriff’s deputies were off the Point at the time, Carleton said.
Ultimately the Airlift Northwest helicopter was summoned for transport. While Carleton did not have exact times available, he acknowledged it took longer than desirable to get the patient transported because they could not rendezvous with the helicopter. “We were unable to do that due to manpower,” he said.
Carleton is hopeful the new weekday coverage program starting October 1 will help avoid a similar situation. “Our goal would be to have a five weekday staffing program in effect,” he said. “That has been our most difficult timeframe at this point.”
Carleton has increased the stipend for a weekday coverage shift from $80 to $140, and has added a requirement that the volunteer commit the time on shift to department business. “That is at the station or in the vehicle,” he said. “They cannot respond from home. They need to spend the day at the station and be available to the public.”
The district is also completing an open application process for new department members who have completed basic training as firefighters, and Carleton said they already have 50 applicants. Two of the applicants are certified nationally or at the state level as EMTs and are being certified to practice in Whatcom County. “From here the process should be an easy one,” Carleton said. He added he hoped the state would approve online training for EMTs, which would lighten the travel load on volunteers training to that skill level.