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Kivalliq first responders get national-calibre skills boost

A group of Rankin Inlet volunteer firefighters completed the first responder medical program this past week in Rankin.

The week-long course was facilitated by Lieut. Mitchell Sherrin and Chantelle Pohl of Salt Spring Island Fire and Rescue in British Columbia.

Instructor Mitchell Sherrin, Jamie Botelho and Matthew Ford-Rogers, from left, prepare mock victim George Aksadjuak for transport during a first responder medical program in Rankin Inlet on Feb. 15. Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

The extensive course was arranged by Rankin Fire Chief Mark Wyatt with funding from the Municipal Training Organization.

Sherrin has been a firefighter for the past 15 years and a paramedic for the past 12, and he is one of Salt Spring Island's lead instructors for a number of courses, including the first responder program.

He said he and Pohl trained 12 Rankin firefighters to the national standard of the 40-hour program.

"This is the first level of paramedic school, and many fire departments in Canada train to the first responder level," said Sherrin.

"The firefighters in Rankin did very well learning about all kinds of different things, including how to take care of spinal injuries, trauma, medical illnesses and how to provide the best care for their community.

"Rankin Inlet has a great department full of really nice people.

"The students were very enthusiastic and did a great job throughout the program."

Sherrin said the first responder medical program is an intense course, with a lot of information to be covered in a week.

He said the text book has 450 pages containing a lot of medical terminology that's new to many students.

"I was really impressed with how well the Rankin firefighters did covering all the information.

"Now that they've completed this program, they have a much better understanding of injury-and-disease processes to help them provide better care for people in their community.

"They won't get too many more tools than they already have, although I am talking to Chief (Mark) Wyatt about adding a glucometer (glucose meter) to the ambulance so they can check the blood sugar of people with diabetes.

"We're also talking about learning a little bit about Naloxone and Narcan (used for the emergency treatment of an opioid overdose) because – although it doesn't seem to be a problem in this community, it is a problem across most of Canada – it's good to learn about it and be prepared should an emergency present itself."

Sherrin said although Nunavut doesn't have a requirement to renew the first responder training every three years, as in other jurisdictions, it would be a great idea for Rankin firefighters to have a refresher course every few years.

He said the course could actually be done in-house.

"They could teach themselves how to keep those skills going, or Chief Wyatt could train specific individuals to keep providing that training.

"Mark (Wyatt) and I have worked together and known each other for many years, so I'm honoured that he invited me to come up here for my first time and teach."