July 16, 2006 – Originally organized as a way to channel donations made to Emergency Medical Services on St. John, the nonprofit St. John Emergency Medical Services Association expanded its efforts to include a lengthy roster of community services.
A dozen strong, the organization's membership includes all the emergency medical technicians assigned to St. John, the Star of Life boat captain and retired EMTs.
Carol Beckowitz is the president, with Catherine Taylor the treasurer and Liston Sprauve the secretary.
Setting up a community automatic external defibrillator program is currently high on the to-do list.
"If someone falls over in cardiac arrest, there's a small window to revive them," Taylor said.
She said that window lasts about one to 10 minutes, which is why the organization is working hard to raise community awareness about the defibrillators.
Beckowitz said that there are at least 14 of these machines stashed all over St. John in homes and public places. The program, once it's running, will map out where they're located, provide training for residents in using the defibrillators and train instructors to teach people how to use the life-saving machines.
The organization also provides training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), another lifesaver for people having heart attacks.
The association often puts on events with a focus on health. Beckowitz said the members frequently go into the schools to give the students tours of an ambulance, show them the proper way to call 911 and teach them minor first aid techniques.
The members also provide blood pressure and cholesterol screening at community events, and once a year, hold a health fair at the Marketplace Shopping Center.
This year, the organization held a Kids Care workshop at the Marketplace in conjunction with National EMS Week. In addition to the usual 911 instruction, the members demonstrated how to apply splints and bandage wounds.
The organization is also at the forefront of professional development. In 2004, the members, in conjunction with the Health Department, coordinated first-responder classes for beginning EMTs. A total of 14 people graduated from the class.
Additionally, the group sponsors continuing education classes open to the island's health care professionals.
"We've had over 200 hours of continuing education classes since 1997," Beckowitz said.
The group also holds in-depth classes on how to deal with trauma in patients. Beckowitz said the opportunities for traumatic injuries are almost endless, including those that occur when people lean too far over stone walls to take photographs.
The organization continues to accept donations and raise funds. Beckowitz said that soda and juice machines located just outside the EMS station in Cruz Bay are the organization's best fund-raisers.
In addition to funding the various community programs, the groups uses its money to pay up-front costs for emergency repairs to the Star of Life ambulance boat so the boat can remain operational. In the past, the Health Department had to contract with boat companies to transport patients to St. Thomas when the Star of Life went down.
Beckowitz said the Health Department has reimbursed the organization when it funded Star of Life repairs, but the department and the EMS Association are currently working out details on how to best handle this situation.
The members saw the need to get organized in 2000 when a resident donated a boat for use as an ambulance boat. It turned out the boat wasn't suitable, but Beckowitz said they sold it and used the money for the EMS Association activities.
To donate, send a check to St. John EMS Association, 11318 Hansen Bay, St. John, VI 00830.
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