United First Aid to go Live in Van Buren County
The Iowa United First Aid program is now officially active in Van Buren County. This means that if you call for emergency medical assistance in Van Buren County, one of the first people to arrive may be a local volunteer. You can identify volunteers in the program by the bright red vests they will be wearing. These volunteers will help provide basic first aid and assistance until the ambulance crew can arrive.
This program, coordinated by Van Buren County Hospital (VBCH) and supported by the Van Buren County EMA (Emergency Management) office, is part of a larger pilot program taking place in the state of Iowa with the goal of reducing emergency response times in rural areas. The program was conceived after Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg undertook a trade mission to Israel and met with a group called United Hatzalah. United Hatzalah volunteers respond to almost 700,000 emergency calls in Israel per year and have significantly cut down on emergency response times across the country.
After his trade mission, Lt. Gov. Gregg returned to Iowa and started working with the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative to brainstorm how a version of United Hatzalah’s program could be brought to rural Iowa. From these early conversations the Iowa United First Aid program was born. The mission of the program is to provide immediate medical intervention during the critical window between the onset of an emergency and the arrival of traditional ambulance assistance. Earlier this year, the state held a competitive grant process to decide which counties would be chosen to pilot the program. Van Buren, along with Cass and Calhoun, was selected, and a team of volunteers have been working on behind the scenes logistics since this summer.
Each program volunteer is trained in CPR, basic first aid, and the administration of Narcan, an emergency opioid overdose treatment drug. Once volunteers are fully trained, they are issued a “Go Bag” and volunteer vest like the ones pictured. Volunteers then download a mobile app called “Now Force” to their phones which has been integrated to the county’s emergency response system. This allows dispatchers to alert volunteers when medical 911 calls come into the Sheriff’s Office and the volunteer is in close proximity to the call.
One of the things included in the “Go Bag” is an AED, another is a tourniquet. While volunteers will respond to all types of medical calls, it is the very critical calls where a patient has experienced cardiac arrest, or has a major bleed, where the program really hopes to make a difference in outcomes. In those types of situations, seconds matter, and if someone in the same community can respond and provide basic first aid until the ambulance crew arrives, they very well may save someone’s life.
Like many things in Van Buren County, making this program possible has truly been a team effort. The Van Buren County Supervisors provided the $25,000 in match funding that was needed in order to apply for the $50,000 award from the state. Every city council pledged support and agreed to help spread the word about the program in their communities. The Van Buren County EMA office, and the dispatchers at the Sheriff’s Department, have put in countless hours implementing and testing an entirely new emergency response system capable of integrating with the Now Force application. Van Buren County Hospital has donated all of the time necessary for program coordination and volunteer training so that all funds could be utilized directly for equipment and supplies for volunteers.
Of course, there are also all of the people who have stepped up to volunteer for the program. Currently, 16 volunteers have completed all of their training and are ready to respond when called upon. There are 4 more finishing up their training who will be available to respond soon. The program currently has enough equipment for 30 volunteers and is continuing to actively recruit participants. The highest need areas in the county currently are Birmingham and Milton. If you have an interest in volunteering for the program, or any questions about how it works, please contact William Cline, firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-293-8709, or Ashley Moyer, email@example.com or 319-293-8747.