Squad has just six available members on weekdays
By Jennifer Eisenbart
“As Chief of the Burlington Rescue Squad, it is an honor to serve alongside individuals that bring a true meaning to our motto, ‘Service Above Self,’ as these people give more than you know to help those at their worst times.”
Those are the words of Burlington Area Rescue Squad Chief Brian Zwiebel, who is going on 17 years with the rescue squad. In that time, he has seen the squad grow to the point where it is taking 3-4 calls a day, with an average of about 100 calls a month.
Those calls range from broken bones to people who have fallen to life-threatening car accident victims and the “pulseless non-breathers” – people who are technically dead.
“It can be as simple as helping someone get up off of the ground,” Zwiebel said. It can also be “a major car accident.”
And yet, the number of people available to help those in need of assistance has dwindled in recent years. The rescue squad is down to just 20 members – two of whom are on leaves of absence and another two who are available only when not away at college.
That leaves the squad with just 16 active members, and only six of them – and that’s a best-case scenario – are available during the day.
“That’s if everybody out of those six are in town,” Zwiebel said. “We get by now. We’re lucky enough that we’ve got two people that are able to leave work and respond to calls.”
It’s why Zwiebel has been an active supporter of the study that the City of Burlington wants to do regarding the possible combination – in whatever forms would be found suitable – of the City and Town Fire Departments, and also the rescue squad.
“We could always use new members,” Zwiebel said. “The biggest thing that would help ease concerns would be having more daytime available members.”
Zwiebel, who was at the Town Board meeting last week in support of the project, said he would love to see the three organizations come to some sort of mutual agreement – even if it’s just fire department members being able to drive the squad.
“Even one person can make a difference,” said Zwiebel. “That’s something that we’re going to be currently looking at.”
All members of the rescue squad must pass the EMT-Basic course – which is more than 1,000 hours of work – and be at least 18. While the Burlington High School EMT program helps out with daytime numbers – students take the EMT course through Gateway Technical College and then serve as an explorer-type group – that is only part of the equation.
“But the only thing is, that is part of the year and for the summer,” Zwiebel said. “You’ve got a period of time, if the kids go back to school, from about September to about March-June where we may not have anybody.”
If you are interested in joining the rescue squad, either stop by the City of Burlington Fire Department at 165 W. Washington Street or go to the group’s website at http://burlingtonrescuesquad.com/.