Howlong residents can feel much safer now the town has its own Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
Thanks to the Howlong Community Progress Association (HCPA), which has driven the initiative, there will be nine fully qualified clinical volunteers ready to spring into action in response to triple zero emergency callouts in the community.
HCPA secretary Cheryl Cook said the responder vehicle that is now permanently based in Howlong meant the time it might take to save someone’s life could be just minutes.
Graduates at the special ceremony hosted at the Howlong Golf Club by Ambulance NSW were Stan Zawora, Brendan Newley, David Gulbin, Clint Hawking, Cody Hawking, Christine Jacobs and Tammy Sinclair.
“It has been an absolute pleasure for the HCPA to drive this wonderful initiative, and huge thanks goes to Ambulance NSW staff for their amazing support throughout this lengthy journey,” said Cheryl.
It’s been a nearly three-year process for the association which only formed in May 2021. At the inaugural meeting, which was attended by 75 members, it was identified there was a need for improved health services and/or an ambulance station in the town.
“There were several brave souls before us over the years who tried to get something done about establishing an ambulance station but couldn’t gain any traction because I think, essentially, it needed so much hands-on admin throughout the whole process that no one small group could actually pull it together, so we took on the challenge,” said Cheryl.
“We were able to, with our team of seven committee members, initially get all the discussions going and get all the contacts, talk to our local member of parliament and then handle all the following communication, paperwork and meetings required over a long period of time.
“Our Albury member, Justin Clancy, was then able to connect us with NSW Ambulance superintendent Liesa Huggins who is the Murrumbidgee zone manager of clinical operations based in Albury.”
She said during early discussions it emerged that an ambulance station was not practical given Howlong’s proximity to Albury and Corowa, however a CERT would be an ideal model.
In 2022, another public meeting on the topic garnered interest from about 20 people keen to find out more.
“Our mission was then escalated up the chain to superintendent Desiree O’Brien, the senior manager of clinical operations directorate in Sydney,” said Cheryl.
During the lengthy period of consultation that followed volunteer numbers naturally decreased due understandably, to the significant personal undertaking required.
The final nine participants who had committed lodged their 45-page NSW Ambulance application package (which took six workshops to complete) and entered the intensive nine-month online/inhouse/onsite training program.
The path to credentialling as a clinical volunteer is rigorous and also incudes on-road shifts with local paramedic crews.
“It’s been a bit of a journey and we are so proud of the courage and commitment of the graduates who have become our certified first responders,” said Cheryl.
“We are confident that there will be others who step into a future volunteer training program as their circumstances permit.”
The next two volunteers set to graduate are Wendy Terrill and Allison Hawking.
The HCPA is a not-for-profit group that works to achieve positive community outcomes. The team have a direct conduit to Federation Council which gives them leverage to put forward projects where support is needed. You don’t need to be a committee member to help their cause, you can get involved in a variety of ways. Find out more here.