Publication The Steward

Vol. 13 Issue 2

March 05, 2024

Originally Published 2020

Volunteer emergency service providers use the jaws of life to rescue an accident victim. See it in Neighbors Helping Neighbors at

Neighbors Helping Neighbors—Our Volunteer First Responders

“911 what’s the address of your emergency?” Fire, car accident, medical emergency, chemical spill, flooded basement, lost hiker, stranded pet… If you call for emergency help in Northwest Connecticut, it’s your neighbors who answer the call, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Northwest Connecticut firefighter and ambulance services depend heavily on well-trained volunteers. Many of our more than 40 local emergency service organizations are staffed by people who make a living doing something else. They include teachers, small business owners, trades people, contractors, town employees, delivery and retail workers, landscapers, artists, engineers, hairdressers, retirees, and students. These people donate their time, money and talents, and often risk their lives to keep our communities safe.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors is a documentary short by award winning writer, producer, Anne Makepeace that offers a unique look into the extraordinary skills and services our local first responders provide. The film highlights the hard work, training and dedication of these courageous local men and women.

What Happens When You Call 911? 911 calls made in Northwest Connecticut are answered by Litchfield County Dispatch (LCD). Established in 1989, Litchfield County Dispatch, Inc., covers 40 fire, medical, and police services encompassing 945 square miles with 150,000 residents and averages 80,000 fire, medical, and police calls annually. A dispatch operator asks questions to determine the location and nature of your emergency and decides which services you need—your local fire department, an ambulance and/or the police. The dispatcher contacts your town’s first responders. If first responders request additional resources, such as specific equipment, tools or expertise, dispatchers may reach out to another town’s first responders for mutual-aid. While handling multiple requests, the dispatcher remains in contact with emergency responders at every transition point along the way until the response team has completed the call and can return to service for another call.

Jacqueline Rice, math teacher and swim coach at Housatonic Valley Regional High School, is a volunteer firefighter pictured during training water rescue. See it in Neighbors Helping Neighbors at

Jacqueline Rice, Salisbury volunteer fire fighter, on being on the receiving end of a dispatch— “The pager goes off and you’re sound asleep, and then the pager will start talking. And as it starts talking you’re thinking in your head— ok—what do I need to wear—what am I going to see when I get there—what are the possible injuries, and what do we need?”

WATCH FULL VIDEO: Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Your Neighbors Need You

A recent report published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), based on data collected in a national survey of fire departments, revealed that the number of volunteer firefighters in the United States is at the lowest recorded levels since the NFPA began its survey in 1983. Out of almost 30,000 fire departments nationwide, 82 percent are highly dependent on volunteers.

Benefits of Volunteering

Volunteers in emergency services often list the benefits of volunteering as:

• an opportunity to give back to their community and contribute to the safety and wellbeing of their neighbors
• a sense of pride in knowing they are making a difference in the lives of people in their community by protecting them and their loved ones
• the development of decision-making, problem-solving and analytical skills, as well as team building and interpersonal skills that nurture integrity and tolerance
• expanded and strengthened professional networks, working alongside people with varied professional experiences
• a stepping stone into a career as an EMT or firefighter What it Takes to Protect Your Community

Volunteer firefighters are called on day or night, during weekends and holidays, and in all types of weather. Almost all volunteer firefighters are required to complete a minimum of 110 hours of training from a program accredited by the National Fire Protection Association. The training program includes in-class instruction and practical applications that test volunteers physically and mentally. During training, candidates learn to operate axes, fire extinguishers, and other rescue tools. They are trained to perform emergency medical procedures, handle hazardous material, and prevent fires. Trainees learn to help in various situations, including wildland fire, structural fire, fire attack, and emergency medical responses. Most departments require volunteer firefighters to be 18 years of age or older, hold a high school diploma or the equivalent, and possess a valid driver’s license. Candidates are generally required to pass written and physical exams, drug screenings and background checks. Some locations require a volunteer to live within a department's service area or have EMT certification.

Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and/or paramedics are your town’s first responders in the event of medical emergencies, and they provide efficient and immediate care to the critically ill and injured and transport them to a medical facility. All emergency medical technicians and paramedics are certified and approved by the Office of Emergency Medical Services. To become a certified EMT or paramedic in Connecticut, you must pass an approved EMT course and practical skills examination. You will also need to earn certification by taking the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exam.

Types of Certifications:

Emergency Medical Responders (EMRs)
provide immediate lifesaving interventions while waiting for other first responders. EMRs also provide assistance to higher-level personnel at the scene of emergencies and during transport. Training Hours: About 60 Age: 14 years and older.

Emergency Medical Technicians
provide out-of-hospital emergency medical care and transportation for critical and emergent patients. EMTs have the basic knowledge and skills necessary to stabilize and safely transport patients ranging from non emergency and routine medical transports to life-threatening emergencies. Training Hours: 150-190 Age: 16 years and older (CT national certification age 18+)

Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians
provide basic and limited advanced emergency medical care and transportation for critical and emergent patients. Training Hours: EMT class (150-190 hours) plus an additional 250 hours Age: 18 years and older.

Paramedics are allied health professionals whose primary focus is to provide advanced emergency medical care and transportation for critical and emergent patients. Training Hours: About 2 years for a paramedic degree Age: 18 years and older.

Group Trainings/Classes:
Contact your local emergency response organization for information about First Aid, CPR training, CERT (certification to volunteer during state of emergency), and youth programs

Bethlehem Ambulance crew members stand with a Stryker Pro Stretcher and manikin made possible by the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation Khurshed Bhumgara Fund

Bethlehem Ambulance in support of the purchase of a LUCAS Chest Compression System, supplies for community training for the Stop the Bleed program, and a Stryker Power Pro, awarded from the Khurshed Bhumgara Fund.

Cornwall Volunteer Fire Department in support of the organization and its mission, awarded from The Buchanan Fund.

Falls Village Volunteer Fire Department in support of the organization and its mission, awarded from The Echo Valley Foundation Fund.

Harwinton Ambulance Association to support the purchase of two scoop stretchers, awarded from the Miriam Mason Cable Trust Fund.

Harwinton Westside Volunteer Fire Company in support of operating expenses to offset the impact of lost revenue, and to purchase PPE in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, awarded from Northwest Corner Gives: COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund.

Litchfield County Fire Chiefs Emergency Plan in support of the purchase of a replacement command/first responder vehicle, awarded from the Northwest Corner Gives: COVID-19 Rapid Response/COVID-19 Relief Grant Campaign.

New Hartford Volunteer Ambulance in support of the purchase of a Lucas Chest Compression system, awarded from the Khurshed Bhumgara Fund in support of the purchase of three AEDs, awarded from the Robert V. Carr Fund.

Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service in support of the organization and its mission, awarded from The Echo Valley Foundation Fund.

Sharon Fire Department in support of the purchase of a LUCAS Chest Compression System, awarded from the Khurshed Bhumgara Fund.

Torrington Police Department in support of the purchase of NARCAN to be shared with the Torrington Fire Department, awarded from the Marion Wm. & Alice Edwards Fund.

Washington Ambulance Association in support of PPE and cleaning products in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, awarded from the Northwest Corner Gives: COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund.

Grants listed above were awarded from 2017-2020. The Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation has awarded $100,000 in grants to emergency service organizations over the last 10 years.

Local First Responder Fund for Mutual Aid

Established in 2020, the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation Local First Responder Fund for Mutual Aid supports the specific program and equipment needs of first responder organizations within Northwest Connecticut. To give to the Local First Responder Fund for Mutual Aid, visit

From 1980 to 2019, local fire protection service expenditures (adjusted for inflation in 2017 dollars) increased 196 percent. The national average value of a volunteer hour in 2018 was $24.69. Forty-one percent of volunteer firefighters nationally have more than 10 years of active service (tenure period). In 2018, 78,500 of U.S. volunteer firefighters were female, which was 11 percent of the total number of volunteer firefighters.


Barkhamsted East Volunteer Fire Company

T: 860-379-6598


Pleasant Valley Volunteer Fire Company

T: 860-379-0026


Riverton Volunteer Fire Company

T: 860-379-7473



Bethlehem Ambulance Association

T: 203-266-6666


Bethlehem Volunteer Fire Department

T: 203-266-7696

Canaan/North Canaan

Canaan Fire Company

T: 860-824-7366



Colebrook (Center) Fire Department

T: 860-379-5747

Colebrook (Forge) Fire Department

T: 860-379-1551



Cornwall Volunteer Fire Department & Emergency Medical Services

T: 860-672-6526


Falls Village

Falls Village Volunteer Fire Department & Emergency Medical Services

T: 860-824-5298



Goshen Volunteer Fire Company & Emergency Medical Services

T: 860-491-2526



East Hartland Fire House

T: 860-379-5536

West Hartland Fire House

T: 866-567-3877




Harwinton Ambulance Association

T: 860-485-0544


Harwinton Volunteer Fire Department

T: 860-485-9336


Harwinton Westside Volunteer Fire Department

T: 860-485-9234


Kent Volunteer Fire Department & Emergency Medical Services

T: 860-927-3151


Lime Rock Park Ambulance

T: 860-435-5000

W: (emergency services only available during events.)


Litchfield Volunteer Ambulance Association

T: 860-567-0127

Litchfield Fire Department

T: 860-567-0147


East Litchfield Fire Department

T: 860-482-1929

Bantam Fire Co. & Emergency Medical Services

T: 860-567-5198


Northfield Fire Company

T: 860-283-9303


Morris Fire Company

T: 860-567-7441


New Hartford

New Hartford Volunteer Ambulance

T: 860-379-6060

New Hartford Fire and Rescue

T: 860-379-4936


Pine Meadow Volunteer Fire Company

T: 860-379-8014


South End/Nepaug Volunteer Fire Department

T: 860-482-7336



Norfolk Lions Club Ambulance

T: 860-542-5077


Norfolk Volunteer Fire Department

T: 860-542-5021


North Canaan

North Canaan Fire Company

T: 860-824-7366


North Canaan Volunteer Ambulance Corp.

T: 860-824-7219



Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service

T: 860-435-0058


Lakeville Hose Company

T: 860-435-9981



Sharon Fire Department & Ambulance Squad

T: 860-364-5254



Drakeville Volunteer Fire Department

T: 860-482-6694


Torringford Volunteer Fire Department

T: 860-482-5076


Warren Volunteer Fire Company

& Ambulance

T: 860-868-2328



Washington Ambulance Association

T: 860-868-7913


Washington Volunteer Fire Department

T: 860-868-7403


New Preston Fire Department

T: 860-868-7831


Winsted Area Ambulance Association

T: 860-379-6596


Special Services

Rope Rescue Teams (Cornwall, Falls Village, Lakeville, Norfolk, Riverton, Sharon) Dive Team (Goshen) Fire/Water Rescue Boats (Bantam, Colebrook, Cornwall, Goshen, Lakeville, Morris, New Hartford, Torrington, Winchester) Incident Management Teams CERT, Animal Rescue.

Every effort has been made to provide the most current information available.

North Canaan High Ladder Truck combating a fire at The White Hart Inn in Salisbury See it in Neighbors Helping Neighbors at

Mutual Aid – There when it’s Needed

Throughout the United States, and in our own communities, volunteer emergency responders provide assistance across jurisdictional boundaries, called mutual aid. Mutual aid between communities helps make us safer while providing us with potential economic benefits. For instance, sharing specialty equipment across town lines avoids costly duplication, while making certain that needed emergency services and equipment are available when needed. By sharing resources across communities during emergencies involving multiple alarm fires or disasters with multiple casualties, mutual aid helps ensure that the appropriate number of volunteer responders arrive to help.

Learn more about the junior firefighter program in Neighbors Helping Neighbors at

Youth Volunteering

Many local volunteer fire departments offer a junior firefighter program. Junior members must be at least 14 years of age and have parental permission to participate. This nationally recognized program provides a safe and meaningful experience in a highly supervised environment for youth interested in the occupation of firefighting. While good academic performance is always a priority, junior members are provided the opportunity to work alongside the men and women of their fire department at emergency scenes, training sessions, fundraisers and other activities. Contact your local emergency services department to find out if your community sponsors a junior firefighter program or junior EMT program.

SOURCES 1, accessed 09/06/2019; dph/ems/pdf/Training/FAQ-NREMT-Connecticut-All-Users_rev1.pdf?la=en, accessed 09/16/2019; https://www.healthcarepathway.... connecticut-emt.html, accessed 09/16/2019. 2, accessed 08/22/2019; faq.cfm, accessed 08/22/2019 3, accessed 08/22/2019; The Haddam Volunteer Fire Company,“What’s It Weigh? Firefighter Gear Piece By Piece,”–whats-it-weighfirefighter- gear-piece-by-piece, accessed 08/22/2019 4, accessed 09/09/2019

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