With the growing concern over the response time to emergency situations, the community of Fort Albany will be introducing an Emergency Response Team completely made up of volunteers from the community.

“It would improve the response time of injured people and get the patient from the accident to the hospital faster,” said Gisele Kataquapit, community health nurse at the James Bay General Hospital, who initiated the program a year ago.

The Emergency Response Team (ERT) program is the first step through the Ontario Ministry of Health’s emergency services program to establish an ambulance service in the community. In the past, community members called upon the First Nation’s constables to get injured people to the hospital. In certain situations it was up to individual community members to get people to the hospital by any means.

“Once there were two accidents and it took quite a while to get the people to the hospital. They had to used a sled and snowmachine,” Gisele Kataquapit said. “With the ERT the response time will be shorter instead of waiting a long time and people will feel more secure,” she added.

The ERT has a total of 10 community members who are trained in CPR, first aid and the Emergency First Réponse program. The volunteers are able to handle any emergency such as accidents, heart attacks or any life-threatening situations. There are also six drivers with CPR and first-aid training.

The training program was set up with the help of the James Bay Ambulance Service in Moosonee. The volunteers are certified as an ERT with the Ontario’s Ministry of Health Emergency Services. “The training they received is a scaled-down version of ambulance college, without the theory information,” said trainer Robert Marshall, ambulance officer with the James Bay Ambulance Service in Moosonee. “It’s a more hands-on approach to training,” he added.

Phillip Hookimow, coordinator of the ERT in Fort Albany, said the program will be in place as of December 5, but the team is still waiting for walkie talkies to come in before they can really start.

Before the Ontario government can approve a full ambulance service, the program will be assessed every 12 to 24 months to determine the team’s response level and the types of calls made within the community.