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My job explained: Ambulance Service Community Responder

In a medical emergency, split seconds can make the difference between life and death. Ambulance Service Community Responders are essential to making sure help gets there in time. Read on as Rocky Ramharak talks about his work volunteering for SECAMB (South East Coast Ambulance Service) NHS Trust.

What is an Ambulance Service Community Responder?

Ambulance Service Community Responders are also sometimes known as Community First Responders - or CFRs for short. They are ordinary members of the community, who volunteer to give up some free time to act as CFRs. We book on with ambulance control as being available at home, and then we are contacted and despatched to deal with any 999 emergency calls in our area as part of the ambulance service. We are asked to commit to around 12 hours of on call availability each month. Some full time members of the ambulance service also volunteer to respond whilst off duty and they are known as Staff Responders.

What made you become a CFR?

After over two decades of military experience I had a lot of skills that I do not get to use in my day job as an IT professional manager in BT, and this seemed like an ideal opportunity for me to make use of my first aid and medical experiences and give a little bit back to my local community. I am also involved in voluntary youth work and it provides me another opportunity to act as a positive role model to the young people I work with.

What was the training like?

ambulance accidentAfter an application form and interview, I had to take an enhanced CRB Check to ensure that I was safe to work with children and vulnerable adults. This was followed by a full medical exam, which isn’t to see if you’re an Olympic athlete, just to ensure that you are healthy enough to work with the public. I then attended a weekend CFR Foundation Course, which gave me an intensive emergency first aid grounding, and then had to go back for a day of written tests and practical assessments. I then had to undertake three shifts of ‘third manning’, which is where you work with crews on ambulances to gain experience. We are then given a medical bag and a defibrillator and sent to work. All CFRs are re-tested every year and we are encouraged to do a third manning shift approximately every six months. Many CFRs go on to change career and join the ambulance service as their full time job.

What is the job like?

I love my voluntary role as a CFR. When a call comes in there is a strange mix of excitement and fear as you rush off to help. We respond in our own vehicles without blue lights, so have no right to speed. We are an integral part of the ambulance service and it’s our job to get to people early since early medical intervention saves more lives, and we are often the first on the scene. We stabilise the patient, and then assist the crews in transferring them to an ambulance for transfer to further medical help in hospital. We work alongside Emergency Care Support Workers (ECSW), technicians and paramedics, who all form part of the emergency care team. I have dealt with all sorts of issues from cardiac arrests to nose bleeds, and all ages from new born infants to OAPs. Every call is different, and so you have to keep calm, think fast, and respond professionally. You need to have real people skills to deal with scared patients in pain or trauma, or relatives in shock or distress. It is a big contrast to my day job, but grounds me in the real world and provides a lot of satisfaction at actually helping local people in need.   

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