When Dave Archambault decided to volunteer on the Milton, Vermont Rescue Squad, he just planned on being the driver for the Emergency Medical Service squad, with perhaps a five year commitment. That was fourteen years ago; he is now a certified Emergency Medical Technician first responder and volunteers over 800 hours, responding to approximately 50 calls per year.
Dave was first compelled to volunteer after he and his wife lost their son, Matthew, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome when Matthew was just three months old. “The first responders were amazing, they did everything they could. That’s when I knew I wanted to give back.”
And give back he did. Once his children were old enough—he was comfortable making the commitment to volunteer on the squad every Thursday night from 6 pm to 6 am.
Within a year of being on the squad, and with some encouragement and coaxing from the Chief, Dave took the leap from driver to become a Certified EMT. This entailed taking a college pre-med course at The University of Vermont, committing an additional three hours, two nights a week for a semester and then passing the state practical’s and a national examination. To maintain this certification, he is required to complete 80 training hours every two years.
The Milton Rescue Service serves a population of approximately 10,500 residents and responds to 850-900 calls a year. Since he lives close to the rescue station, Dave’s usually the first to arrive after a call comes in, first communicating the emergency to the hospital. Roughly 65% of the calls are non-emergency, non-trauma calls. From some of these calls, Dave has seen first-hand the extent of opiate addiction in the state. “When an addict runs out of their supply, they only want to get their “high” back and they call us, thinking we are the fast-track to their next fix.” The most difficult calls are the “code calls,” meaning when a person is not breathing, is non-responsive and has died. “You never forget your first code. You have to expect that.”
Some nights Dave and the other volunteers are back out responding to another call, just as soon as they have returned from the first. Oftentimes there is an adrenaline rush, when they are out responding to the calls, but it’s not all glory. “As much as there are peaks and valleys, it is a job. Sometimes you get burned out.” Despite those peaks and valleys, Dave was named Rescue Member of the Year in 2012.
Whether the nights are slow or non-stop, Dave is back in the office on Friday mornings, at his full-time job as AVP of Audit at National Life Group, and with his signature bottomless cup of coffee in hand.
At National Life he is also a first responder on the National Life Group responder team, and has been for over 10 years. So his colleagues know they are in good hands.
And the volunteering doesn’t stop there. Every two years, the Milton Rescue Squad along with the Milton Fire Department, Police Department and Milton High School Drama Club stage a Prom accident re-enactment for High School juniors and seniors to help prevent drinking and driving. The re-enactment is powerful, and complete with two wrecked vehicles, ambulance, firetruck, police cruiser and hearse on the scene. After the re-enactment, there is a QA session with the students and the rescue volunteers. This event allows the rescue departments to interact with the community and help educate the students using a real-life scenario.
One particular student that Dave has influenced is his daughter. His passion to serve the community became a family affair. His daughter, Danielle, started visiting the station helping him with inventory checks before she was in High School. When she was a freshman, she began volunteering in the cadet program, a program specifically for students. Danielle continued volunteering and by her senior year, she became a certified EMT. Not only did she stick with the program and demanding shifts, but her volunteer experience has influenced her career decision. Now she is in graduate school to become a Physician’s Assistant.
This August will be Dave’s 15 year anniversary on the squad. When asked if he’ll slow down anytime soon, he responded like a true cause-driven volunteer, “I think there would be a void there if I stopped.”
If you are thinking about volunteering, but are hesitant to take the leap due to concerns about your own skill set or schedule, don’t doubt what you have to offer; it could make all the difference to your community.