The 2019–2020 school year marks the pilot year for Ms. Sandra Honsinger’s Responding to Emergencies class. This is a half-year elective offered by Ms. Honsinger, an American Red Cross First Aid/AED/CPR instructor and a Health and Physical Education teacher at Berlin Middle-High School.
The initial idea for the class came about from a question asked during the basic First Aid unit in Ms. Honsinger’s Health class. The question was: “How long does it take for a first-responder to arrive at your home in an emergency?” This question led to a realization that the vast majority of the district is covered by only a small number of volunteers.
This is a problem. There is a great need for more volunteer first responders, and the hope is to reduce the average age of local volunteers, which is 68, in order for emergency service to thrive.
“We need more community members who are First Aid, CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) certified.” Honsinger continued, “The most common emergency calls deal with CPR, diabetic or heart issues, which we train for during First Aid certification.”
Ms. Honsinger’s motivation for the elective course is to boost interest and/or enrollment in emergency response volunteers. Students must be at least 16 years old to enroll in the course and receive American Red Cross certification.
“I wanted to marry the interests and create relationships between the students and the emergency responding volunteers in our community,” said Ms. Honsinger.
Each Responding to Emergencies course includes American Red Cross First Aid, CPR and AED training as well as three hours of community service.
This school quarter, students spent one hour of their community service tending to and updating all the school’s coaching medical kits. The other two hours of community service were spent at the Stephentown Fire House last week.
The Stephentown volunteer first responders welcomed the Berlin students to explore their ambulances, firetrucks and gear. The volunteers also held a question-and-answer period, giving students insight into what a day in the life of a selfless volunteer first responder looks like.
Ms. Honsinger remarked that the most profound moment for her during the visit was “when a student asked an emergency responder what first comes to mind when a call comes in, and the answer was, where are my kids?”
Those who are interested in receiving more information about volunteering in Rensselaer County can contact a volunteer at their local firehouse or EMT station or email firstname.lastname@example.org.