Wykoff first responders include, from left, Brad Demke, who is now taking EMR training, Deb McDonald, Teresa Swenson and James Eickhoff. Not shown is Michelle Meldahl.
Wykoff first responders include, from left, Brad Demke, who is now taking EMR training, Deb McDonald, Teresa Swenson and James Eickhoff. Not shown is Michelle Meldahl.
Wykoff is looking for people to serve as first responders in the community as the veteran leader is stepping down and the remaining squad is slim in numbers.

"We switched from an ambulance service to first responder service in April of 2005 - we changed from ambulance service to first responders because our crew had gotten small enough that we were unable to keep 24/7 coverage needed to be a licensed ambulance service," said Wykoff's longtime first responders squad leader Leroy Eickhoff, who has been with the ambulance service and first responders since 1993 but has now chosen to leave the service.

The main differences between an ambulance service and a first responders squad for Wykoff is that the service no longer could transport patients. Ambulance services are licensed and regulated by the state, while first responder squads have very little regulation by anyone but the doctor that is their medical director, explained Eickhoff. Wykoff's new service kept the same range of just over 90 square miles, but the ambulance coverage of the area was split between Chatfield, Preston and Spring Valley.

Recently, the crew held a re-organization and recruitment meeting in the hopes of finding more people to be available to assist people in case of an emergency. The crew has dropped to a total of four members as of Dec. 1, with one taking training to join the crew. The number of calls that they have been able to respond to has dropped, too.

"We're not sure who's going to be the leader - three of the current members have taken on keeping the crew going, but have not decided if one will be the leader or if they will share the job," said Eickhoff.

The number of responders who live in town and in the country "are about split in half," meaning that someone can hopefully arrive just at the right time, lending a reassuring hand while waiting for the ambulance to arrive from one of the neighboring communities. Since everyone is trained as an emergency medical technician, they don't have to travel to Wykoff to get the truck before arriving at a call, according to Eickhoff.

"They can respond in their own vehicles, but are limited on what they can do without the rig and its equipment. Part of being a first responder squad is that you do not have to have 24/7 coverage, so the members are on call anytime they are in the area," he stated.

Even though the challenge of maintaining a first responders squad in a small town is great due to people's busy schedules, Eickhoff and the crew hope that more people might be willing to train and join, as "there can never be too many." The rewards lie in "helping people, and seeing them return to the community after you helped them."