Hannah and her young friends are going out all night, and it might get messy. Though tired from high school classes and team practices, nothing is going to keep them out of their vehicles or off the streets; they are a determined bunch.
Before the night is over and they drag themselves back to school in the morning, they just might witness an accident or two and see signs of drug use. They are not on a spree; they are on duty, and they just might save your life tonight.
Beginning at about 6pm each day Hannah, Katherine, Gretta, and Zack are 24-hour EMS- at Post 53 in Darien CT, where high school-age volunteers monitor emergency lines, drive the ambulances, and manage patient care.
Slip on the stairs and fall face first? Call Post 53., You may have broken a collar bone. Or perhaps, you feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest, your left arm aches and you're really tired? Call Post 53, you may be having a heart attack. Whatever the trauma, skid on the ice, sprain an ankle: call 911. Radio Roomies Kevin and Maggie are monitoring the radios related to those 911 calls received by Darien police and emergency medical dispatchers. They also might be studying for that calculus exam (over 85% of "Posties" are on the honor roll).
For 40 years, using the dedicated volunteers of Darien High School, Post 53 has provided the Darien community with emergency medical services They operate three fully-equipped ambulances 24/7/365. Post adult advisors provide guidance and oversight and, when required, Post 53 dispatches paramedics from Stamford Emergency Paramedics. The entire process operates under the protocols of the Stamford Hospital.
If you think that this is unique, you are right.
In 1970, John E. "Bud" Doble founded Post 53 , modeled after an Explorer Scout post on Nantucket. The inspiration was to teach young people about drug and alcohol abuse first hand. The first ambulance was a converted telephone truck; they answered 100 calls on an annual budget of $150.
Thousands of grateful callers and 550 Darien High School student volunteers later, they have become an EMS of the highest order, discipline and professionalism...except that nobody gets paid.
Here are some FAQ about Post 53: http://www.post53.info/what-we-do/faq/1
I asked volunteers Hannah Nolte and her young colleagues (Katherine Dostal, Gretta Hickey, and Zack ) how they choose new members; what kind of traits they look for and who makes the final decisions. They told me that they look for the best all-round "fit," while they watch freshman candidates during the initial 90-day candidacy, maintaining the HQ, including the sleeping quarters. All decisions about personnel and just about everything else are made by the young adults, very much a peer to peer organization. Adult advisors may provide guidance, but the young members decide who makes Post.
Post 53's Guiding Principles resemble those of most serious athletic teams with a championship in mind: trust, dependability, integrity, responsibility, confidence, pride, and love. When you're seventeen and arrive at the scene of an emergency, usually surrounded by adults, you've got to look, act and talk with as much professionalism as a ....well, a professional. Posties always do.
All of Post 53's student volunteers attend Darien High School, play on athletic teams or participate in other school activities in addition to their Post 53 commitment.
During school hours, 7:30am-2:30pm, first ambulance response is covered by "day ladies" who are adult volunteers (some of whom may be guys). If there is a second call, on-duty students have permission to leave school in the ambulance housed in a special bay at the back of the school.
Here are the response procedures: http://www.post53.info/what-we-do/response/paramedic-response
Unlike most EMS's around the country, Post 53 receives no government support of any kind. They are funded by two large fund-raisers each year and are fortunate to receive generous community donations. In addition to emergency duties, the volunteer group also provides First Aid, CPR, and AED training, and offers free blood pressure tests each Sunday from 10am at their HQ at Zero Ledge Road.
Ron Hammer: Director Director of Post 53 told us that perhaps the biggest challenge facing Post 53 is the fact that they naturally lose the seniors every year to graduation and college. Although they are replaced by capable rising seniors, it's always hard to see team members go.
Additionally, Post 53 adds 18-20 rookies each year. The new team members come from a very large applicant pool. The program is competitive and demanding, ensuring consistency and continuity to the people of Darien.
During their four-year career, all Posties pass through five roles: candidate, radio roomie, rider, state certified EMT, and driver (some of whom receive state exemptions to drive after 11pm). In addition to the Guiding Principles, training and a personal ability to be a team-player are the cornerstones of Post membership.
Here's what happens when Darien residents call 911: http://www.post53.info/what-we-do/response/what-happens-when-you-call-911
Does this all sound too good to be true? According to Ron Hammer, Director of Darien EMS, Post 53 has been extremely fortunate over the years their culture is a solid one, their legacy attracts more candidates than they can accept, and Darien people have been very generous, as their state of the art ambulances show. If they have a need, perhaps it's in the area of adult advisors.
To any local organization that needs talented and dedicated volunteers or is having some trouble with funding, Post 53's success might seem enviable. But, everything about Post 53 demonstrates that any organization can reach its goals with patience, persistence, adherence to the highest standards and values, while fulfilling a community need.