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On The Job: Emergency Volunteers

OPB | Oct. 10, 2011 9:25 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 10:43 p.m.

A phone call reporting a man experiencing severe chest pain woke Frank Billington in the middle of the night, and he was first on the scene in a matter of minutes. The patient was in a great deal of pain with a very irregular heartbeat. Frank did what he could to stabilize him before the paramedics arrived and whisked him away to the nearest hospital. The patient survived and later, the EMTs told Frank it was unusual for someone to pull through after such a serious heart attack. “I like to think I had something to do with that,” Frank said humbly. 

Frank lives in a house owned by the local fire district, which means he basically runs a one-man fire station out of his family’s home. He has a what’s known as a mini pumper vehicle at his disposal. (It’s basically a scaled down fire truck with medical supplies on board.) He’s often the first on the scene of a fire or medical emergency, but this isn’t his paid job. Frank is a shift superintendent at Clark Public Utilities. He’s also a volunteer fire and medical responder in rural Washington, near Washougal.

From disaster response to search and rescue, there are lots of emergency situations that depend on volunteers. These are people who commit to year-round training as well as being on call for a crisis. In our next installment of our On the Job series, we talk with people who volunteer to be emergency responders.

Have you volunteered to be a firefighter, first responder or part of a search and rescue team? What makes you want to do this kind of work? What stories stand out for you from your experiences as a volunteer? Have you ever experienced an emergency that brought volunteer responders to the scene?

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