This is file #31. I (Jean McMillen) am interviewing Jacqueline Rice at the ambulance garage. She is going to talk about her position as Chief of Service for the Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service Inc. The date is October 1, 2012.
JR:What is your full name?
JR:December 23, 1969
JM:Where were you born?
JM:Your parents’ names?
JR:John & Denise Rice
JM:Do you have siblings?
JR:I do. I have a sister Shelly, and brothers John, and Raymond.
JM:What is you educational background?
JR:My educational background, my undergraduate I have a BS in Physical Education and Health, then I went back to school and I have a BS in math and science. I have a Master’s in Education from Springfield College, and a sixth year in mathematics from Wesleyan University. I am currently in my PhD program.
JR:For Public Administration and Health Services.
JM:How did you get involved with the ambulance service?
JR:I got involved with the ambulance service back when I was a teenager. My neighbors Ann and Jack Lloyd who were founders of this organization were members. Then Michael and David Brenner, although not founding members, were early members of this organization, also. When I was at Yale taking some classes for my undergraduate degree, they had an EMT class. I was basically told that this would be a great way to help out with the ambulance squad by both the Lloyds and the Brenners. So I took the class with a bunch of New Haven and Hamden firefighters.
JM:Oh that must have been fun.
JR:It was a lot of fun. They were a lot older that I was. I took it as soon as I turned 18; you couldn’t take the EMT class until you were 18.
JM:Is that still true?2.
JR:No, it is not still true; you can take it earlier, but it is really that the state recognizes you, but the federal government does not.
JM:When did you become Chief of Service?
JR:I became Chief of Service in 1996.
JM:How many people in your squad?
JR:A little over 50.
JM:What kind of training does an EMT have to have?
JR:An EMT has to have about 150 hours for their initial training, starting with CPR for the professional rescuer, and going through all the scenarios of medical and traumatic injuries. As well as a lot of other things like driver training, and hazardous material, and terrorism and all different aspects of various subjects.
JM:I would imagine that because of this area you would have a variety of things like mountain rescue, water rescue which is not what you would find in a city situation.
JR:Correct. We have separate courses on low and high angle rescue for the Appalachian Trail; we have water safety and water rescue classes, not only still but running water for the Housatonic River and for the lakes in this area. We also have snowmobile accidents and sledding accidents. We also have sleds that you need to have extra time on. We have an ATV and a gator that you need to learn how to drive.
JM:What is a gator?
JR:A gator is a bigger ATV that has an actual stretcher on the back that we can put a person on.
JM;How many ambulances do you have?
JR:We own 2 ambulances, 2 rescue trucks, 2 gators. We have a couple of different trailers, one is a mass casualty trailers which houses about between 50 and 100 back boards and emergency equipment in some type of mass casualty. We also have a fire rescue trailer and a shelter trailer.
JM:I think you told me that you also set up the emergency shelters if we have like we had during the October storm last year.
JR:Correct. We have a shelter trailer through FEMA. We have 50 cots, 50 blankets, 50 hygiene kits. We have through the state all different kinds of people to open the shelters. Our shelter is at Salisbury Central School and we have set that up a couple of times.
JM:As Chief of Service what do you actually do? How do you coordinate your 50 people?
JR:We are on duty 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. We have teams that run during the day; teams that run at night. I delegate a lot of that to our first aid chief, our assistant chief. They do a lot of the duty schedule. Kaki Schaeffer Reed is the assistant chief, and Patricia Barton is the first aid chief, Michael Brenner is the rescue chief, and Frances Yerkes is our secretary. Kathy Holly is our bookkeeper. Basically I am the CEO of the company here; paperwork, filings with the state, filings with the federal government I do all of those. I keep the peace, make sure that everyone has the correct certification, and make sure that whatever we need, we find-equipment and all of that. I do a lot of grant writing.
JM:Is it difficult to get grant money for this kind of an organization?
JR:We are not a line item on the town of Salisbury’s actual budget, so we rely basically on the generous people of the town of Salisbury, and they are very generous.
JM:They should be; it is a wonderful service.
JR:That’s true but you know I am sure other squads are as…Our town is very generous; if we need an ambulance, we really don’t have a whole lot of trouble finding the money for that. We have grants that we apply for; we have gotten quite a few equipment grants. We have had gifts, big gifts. We were given $20,000 by a family in memory of their parents for 10 new AEVs.
JM:What is an AEV?
JR:A defibrillator. They are scattered around town at strategic places and in some people’s cars to be able to go as a first responder. Anything that the state gives us, we apply for. Anything that the government gives out, we go and get. We have a good relationship with Westover Air Force Base. We got our 1963 Korean War rescue truck from them, the green one. We got that from Westover Air force Base. We try to look for deals and surplus.
JM:You have to. What would be a daily routine for somebody who gets a call? What do they do?
JR:Well there are a couple of different things that they would do. The tones go off and you are told to go to wherever. Now some folks depending upon where they are in town may have to leave a job, or leave their families and they have to make sure that everything is kind of close up.
JM:And they actually do that?
JR:They actually do that. They make sure that the door is locked at the office or they leave wherever they leave. They can either come here or get an ambulance or rescue truck, depending on the call, or they can go right to the scene, as a first responder. We like to have at least one person go to the scene to find out what is going on. They can find out what is going on; they can find out if we need one ambulance or two ambulances of if we need a rescue truck. Or if they come here, they drive the rescue or the ambulance to the scene.
JM:How do they communicate?4.
JR: We have radios; part of our grant programs was to have radios and pagers for every squad member. They can actually talk to each other back and forth. We can talk to our dispatch unit which is Litchfield County Dispatch. They tone us out; they tell us what the emergency is, where it is, and we kind of figure out OK what do we need? We take whatever we need. If it is just an ambulance to the rescue truck, the gators, and all of our mountain area equipment, whatever we need, we take. We stage at some areas, like Undermountain Trail. If it is a walk into the woods, the Appalachian Trail. It just depends on what goes on. The ambulance gets to the scene. We do whatever we need for patient care in transport, put them into the back of the ambulance and take them to Sharon Hospital. We provide whatever care they need in between.
JM:How do you recruit people?
JR: Recruit by word of mouth for the most part. Every year we run an EMT class so we are fortunate that I am an EMS instructor for the state of Connecticut. Every year we run a new class and then we run a refresher class because every 2 to 3 years our members have to refresh between 50 and 75 hours of additional classroom skills and activities, new knowledge whatever the state and federal has decided is the best and the latest and the greatest kind of thing.
JM:Has the amount of knowledge or procedures changed a great deal over the years?
JR:Absolutely, when first ambulances came out, it was load and go. Now it is basically from getting to the scene to the general impressions of the patient, deciding what you need for the patient, being able to care for that patient whether it be oxygen or by splinting or needing a paramedic or Life Star, or knowing that we need a gator to get to the bottom of Sage’s Ravine. It is a lot more of thinking and not necessarily of diagnosing, but knowing what emergency care fits to your patient, whether they are a trauma or a medical.
JM:There are a lot of requirements for this, isn’t there?
JR:There is a huge amount in regards to this. The state continues to put out additional requirements with a limited amount of money.
JM:That is the one thing I was not aware of is how much training, how much equipment, and how much time it takes. So for having 50 people that are so dedicated, it is quite remarkable, the whole operation.
JR:It is quite remarkable and we do not have a lot of turn over. The most turnover we have is people who move out of the area or they retire. They become or develop some kind of physical limitation that they can’t lift any more or they can’t walk or whatever. Most people stay on the squad 10, 15 or 20 years or more.
JM:That is really remarkable. I know from personal experience as having a neighbor show up makes the comfort level rise.
JM:This is somebody I know; they are going to take care of me. You kind of let go of some of the anxiety over whatever is happening because it’s a neighbor. Somebody knows you; somebody is going to take care of me; they are not going to let me lay on the side of the road.
JR:Right and that’s around all the rural sections of this corner. We know our neighbors so that is the best part about this, that you are helping your neighbor.
JM:What does the Board of Directors do?
JR:The Board of directors for the most part fund raise and they investigate buying ambulances, buying rescue trucks, trying to work deals with that. One of our people on our squad is our insurance agent so he is able to find the best insurance for us usually through other firematic insurance companies.
JM:Is there a number of hours that the person can be on call or on duty?
JR:We try to make everybody be at least on between 6 and 12; most people are on 24. Many weekends we don’t have set people that are covering the town; you just sign up. This past was my weekend. So basically you don’t go very far away from town and if there is an ambulance call you respond. You do housework or mow your lawn or do some grocery shopping at LaBonne’s. You hang around the town.
JM:Didn’t you say that you were the Coordinator for Emergency Services?
JR:I am the Emergency Management Director for the town of Salisbury.
JM:Which means what?
JR:Which means that if any hurricane, snowstorm, tornado or anything to do with any emergency that comes up in town that is mostly weather related for the most part, I with Curtis Rand and other selectmen we formulate a plan and we carry it out. We have an emergency plan for the town of Salisbury. It is a state mandate that you have to have that; between Curtis and me we go to all the meetings that we need to go to in order to make sure that our town is safe in any emergency. We had that week snowstorm and we were one of the few towns that actually cleared every road. We didn’t have power, but we cleared every road so that we would have access to all the power lines. We also clear the roads so that people could have access to places that had power like Millerton, Gt. Barrington and the Sharon Hospital. We made sure that all of our residents could get out if they needed to get out.
JM:What haven’t I asked you that I should?
JR:I guess that the members of the Salisbury Ambulance come from every walk of life. You don’t have to be in the medical field. Sure we have doctors and nurses on our squad. We also have carpenters, plumbers, electricians, schoolteachers, lawyers, dentists, insurance people, stone masons,
everybody. Everybody is on our squad; you just have to have a talent for empathy and a talent for wanting to give back to the community.
JM:It takes a special kind of person to be able to deal with blood and gore and traffic accidents and that sort of thing. Empathy is one thing, but it is another part of the forest.
JR:That’s true. I think 80% of our calls are probably the very run of the mill like heart attacks or some kind of medical where there isn’t any blood. There are very few calls where we have a fall or a motor vehicle accident or something that is very traumatic. You just get through it; there are some people don’t like that, they are the people who aren’t directly in contact with the patients. They are bringing the backboard or the cot over. They don’t have to deal with bandaging and splinting. So everybody has a rule.
JM:So you have predestined their role so somebody that can’t stand blood is not going to be taking a patient in that situation. You have them doing something else.
JR:Well, they might if there are a few people on the scene. But normally they would be doing something else like being a gopher. If you can’t drive the gator, you won’t be driving the gator up the Appalachian Trail. If you don’t like to walk, you are going not hiking Bear Mountain to go get somebody who broke their leg. If you are not trained in rescue for a car accident, you are going to wait for the patient to be extricated out of the car and then you’ll be in the process of boarding or splinting, all of that.
JM:Then there is a bit of a choice as to what you do.
JR:Absolutely, and there are plenty of things to do.
JM:I did want to ask you about Junior EMTs.
JR:We don’t have any junior EMTs. There are a couple of different reasons: 1. We bring in new members all the time so we have a good amount of people who can actually watch the new people and make sure that they feel comfortable and safe, and that they stay safe and that their first call isn’t the full CPR code or a motor vehicle accident with a fatality. We have a mentoring system for the new adults as they come in. 2. Secondly kids just don’t need to see a lot of what we see. The age is 18 to join and 21 to drive. Age 21 is for the insurance which is a lot cheaper. At 18 at some point the maturity level where you can see what we see and not be incredibly traumatized. It is very traumatic to see a fatality, at one point we had 3 sick babies in a row in a six month period. That took its toll on the squad. If we have crippled infants, stressful breathing, or a major fatality, everybody comes together and we talk everything over. Just knowing that, I think everybody realizes that you did everything you could to save the person; we use every piece of equipment, we use our brains we got there in time. We did everything we could to save that person. Some people you are not going to save. You can learn CPR, but you can’t save everybody with CPR. We have saved quite a few people, but other people not.
JM:There is always a percentage.7.
JR:There is always a point where somebody is not going to make it. I think there is an age maturity level that kids just shouldn’t see things like that, if they don’t have too. We have enough problems watching the new people, making sure that they feel comfortable and that they feel part of the team.
JM:In your squad what is the percentage of men and women?
JR:There are a few more women than men. I would go with about 60/40.
JM:Is that because of the empathy or because of the job? Can you analyze that one?
JR:It could be both, to tell you the truth. I don’t know; I am not really sure. We try to get people in and everybody works together. We know it if for the common good of the patient, even if there is a problem, it is still the patient comes first. We work together unbelievably well. You have to trust because if I am hanging off a rope at Sage’s Ravine, I want the people who are belaying me down over the cliff to do it safely.
JM:Well, this group has been together for a number of years.
JR:We just had our 40th anniversary.
JM:That’s a long time, so there has been a great degree of trust built.
JM:It is a wonderful organization.
JR:Quite a few people grew up here, but there are other people who moved into the area. What they are trying to do is give back to the community, at least me, give back to the community in a way I can to the community that raised me. My parents (John & Denise Rice) when I was young did a lot of things. They were on boards, and volunteered their time and they instilled it into the four of us that you should volunteer back to the community. All four of us volunteer where they live in whatever they do.
JM:This is a silly question, but I am going to ask it anyway. Do you volunteer for the town other than the ambulance? Do you do SWASA; do you do any of the other activities?
JR:I help with SWASA when they need extra help. I also am on a couple of boards, the Extras Board and the Salisbury Association Board; I work very closely with the Recreation Department in the summertime. I teach swimming lessons; I teach the lifeguards at Lakeville Lake, I teach kayaking. At the high school I coach swimming and girls and boys’ varsity swimming. We also through Salisbury Ambulance do first aid classes and CPR classes for different people; the boy scouts and the girl scouts come over and work on their first aid badges through us. I am active in my church St. Mary’s. I try to keep busy and out of trouble.
JM:I think you have probably succeeded, Jackie. Thank you so very much. This has been wonderful.