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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

It Takes A "Village".....

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, May 18, 2006

Village Ambulance Service Operations Manager and Paramedic Shawn Godfrey
Williamstown - Emergency medical technician training may be offered at the Village Ambulance Service Water Street headquarters within the next several months, said Shawn Godfrey, operations manager for the non-profit entity.

Godfrey said that the accreditation process has begun. The state Department of Public Health's Office of Emergency Medical Services oversees the accreditation process, which involves a state review of planned curriculum and a site visit.

Godfrey, 35, has been the ambulance service operations manager for about 18 months. He replaced former operations manager John Murphy, who left the ambulance service after an about 15 year tenure. Bert Miller is the general manager of the service and Kara Miller is the office manager.

The North Adams Ambulance Service was awarded a three-year EMT education accreditation in December 2005.

Community Education

Godfrey is a certified cardiopulmonary resuscitation instructor as well as qualified to deliver automated external defibrillator [AED] instruction. He is a certified paramedic who spent about 15 years employed at the County Ambulance Service in Pittsfield. His goals for Village Ambulance include increasing visibility within the community, he said.

For example, the ambulance service offers CPR instruction at the town Youth Center and also offers AED instruction. Ideally, people would be able to perform CPR and use an AED when appropriate, Godfrey said. Using CPR and an AED may significantly improve the odds of surviving a heart attack, he said.

"When you have CPR integration and AED integration -and yes, time is a factor- but if you can provide AED and CPR within a minute, the survival rate is about 80 percent, which is a pretty good jump from a 30 percent rate with just CPR."

Village ambulances are equipped with AED and a manually-operated defibrillator, Godfrey said. The manual unit requires a trained EMT; AEDs are "made so that just about any lay person can use them," he said.

The DPH named the town a "HeartSafe" community in 2005 because all town police cruisers and two vehicles owned by the Williamstown Volunteer Fire Department were equipped with AEDs.

Godfrey said an ambulance service open house is being planned and could occur during the summer. A free blood pressure clinic is expected to be part of the open house, he said.

Coverage And Services

Village Ambulance Service operates three ambulances and provides mutual assistance to the NAAS and the Adams Ambulance Service. The service also offers long-distance service to patients.

The ambulance service provides emergency medical services to residents of Williamstown, Hancock, and New Ashford, as well as Mon-Fri 6 a.m.-6 p.m. coverage of Pownal, Vt..

The service handles an average of 30-35 calls weekly, and the calls are a mix of non-emergencies, such as medical transportation from one facility to another, and medical emergencies such as injuries sustained during motor vehicle accidents.

Village Ambulance Service employs about 50 EMTs on a full-time or part-time basis. EMTs range from basic and intermediate level to paramedic.

The headquarters has undergone some improvements over the past few months. Closet space was renovated and enlarged to create sleeping quarters, and a row of generously-proportioned storage units have been built in the garage area. A plan to erect a loft space is under consideration, Godfrey said, and stressed that those discussions are at a very early stage.

"We want to make the space more comfortable for the EMTs," Godfrey said. "We'd like to give the ambulance service a whole new look, a new community face."

Veteran Paramedic

Godfrey has been a paramedic for 12 years, and when he earned paramedic certification in 1994 at the age of 23, he was the youngest person to achieve that emergency medical services skill level in the area, he said. When he earned EMT basic level status in 1989, he was among the youngest to earn the distinction in the region.

He was a teen-aged youth when he began to hear about EMT work, he said.

"My cousin married Brian Andrews, who was the then-president of County Ambulance," Godfrey said. "At the family functions, he'd always be asking me 'why don't you come drive chair-van [a vehicle that is capable of transporting a wheelchair, sometimes called a 'cabulance']?' I finally did drive chair-van, and about two years later I earned my EMT basic. I fell in love with the job."

Godfrey spent over a decade employed at the County Ambulance service and acquired numerous managerial skills as he enhanced his emergency medical services provider qualifications. He was ready for a change of location when he joined the Village Ambulance service, he said.

But he may never make a career change, he emphasized.

"It sounds so cliche but there's just no other way to say it," Godfrey said. "It's having a willingness and a desire to help people when they need help. At the end of the day, that is what puts the smile on your face.'

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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