Monkton residents welcome return of rescue crew

MONKTON — After more than two years on hiatus, Monkton First Response is back in business.
The organization, founded in 1976 to provide emergency medical care to the northern Addison County town, lost its certification in 2011 due to dwindling membership. This year, Bob and Kelly Howard resurrected the rescue squad and in January began serving the town of 2,000 people.
“We started running again around Jan. 1,” Bob Howard said.
Bob Howard is an eight-year veteran of the Monkton Fire Department. He said the fire department spent several years getting the first response back in action, but the process was time-consuming.
Kevin Alexander, who at the time was assistant fire chief, had begun the certification process, but when he was hired as a full-time firefighter with the Burlington Fire Department, the Monkton First Response effort was put back at square one, Howard said.
Howard said becoming certified is a complex process that involves several state agencies, including the Department of Health and the Enhanced 9-1-1 program.
“It’s kind of muddy waters, it’s very complicated, and it’s quite a bit of paperwork,” he said.
The process took longer, Howard said, because it was the first time he’d gone through it.
“I think if we had asked for more of a hand, that would have made it a lot easier,” he said.
Kelly Howard said the re-certification process will go more smoothly in the future, now that she knows how to navigate the complex process.
“It was a very good learning experience, and when we have to relicense it will be a lot easier,” she said.
Monkton First Response does not have an ambulance. Instead, responders use their own vehicles and will often be the first on scene. Once there, they help stabilize patients and prepare them for transport. This enables ambulance crews to quickly pick up patients when they arrive on scene. Monkton is served by ambulances from Bristol, Vergennes and Charlotte.
While Bob Howard said he hopes Monkton First Response expands its volunteer rolls, he doesn’t envision adding an ambulance.
“With Monkton not having public water and a public sewer, it’s never going to be a big town,” he said. “I don’t see enough people in town for an ambulance service.”
In order to be re-certified, Monkton First Response needed five first responders who could provide 24-hour coverage. Currently, the squad has seven members, but the Howards said they’re always looking for more help.
“We could always use more people,” Bob Howard said. “In any volunteer service, there’s no such thing as too many people.”
Kelly Howard says she has been actively recruiting new members.
“I’ll reach out to anyone who’s interested, and provide them with contact information and where to go for upcoming classes,” she said.
Becoming a first responder, as is the case for becoming a volunteer firefighter, requires a serious time commitment. Kelly Howard estimated that trainees spend around 200 hours to become a full-fledged first responder.
Monkton First Response is part of the Monkton Fire Department, and is financed by town residents. This year’s budget for Monkton First Response is $7,000, out of the total fire department budget of $64,000.
Since Monkton First Response began anew this January, the organization has responded to 16 calls. Bob Howard said it’s hard to predict when calls will come in.
“When roads are bad we get called out a lot more,” he said. “It’s an ebb and flow, and it depends on what’s going on.”
Kelly Howard said town residents are grateful that Monkton First Response is back in business.
“On the calls I’ve been on, they’re really happy we’re here,” she said. “Sometimes we triage them right then and there and reassure the patient. Sometimes all they need to know is that someone is coming.”

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