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News >  Idaho Voices

EMT program trains fourth class

Sessions prepare firefighters, others for life-saving work

Jeff Butcher started as a volunteer firefighter with the Mica-Kidd Island Fire Department when he was 18. Now, at 21, he’s a full-fledged firefighter with the Coeur d’Alene Fire Department.

“I really didn’t know a lot about it, but I knew I was going to be a firefighter,” Butcher said.

He met Fire Inspector Bobby Gonder and Division Chief Tom Greif when the two men came out to Mica Bay to teach a certified first-responder class. Butcher developed a relationship with them, going on ride-alongs, learning all he could. Gonder and Greif have taught EMT training since 1992 for the state at various volunteer fire stations, and now they have brought their talent to North Idaho College’s Work Force Training Center.

Butcher completed the first Emergency Medical Technician Basic program, which was offered fall semester 2007. Gonder and Greif are about to wrap up their fourth class; a total of 50 to 60 students have completed the course.

EMT Basic training involves basic life-saving techniques, such as treating injuries and administering oxygen. Gonder said anyone can take the class, but to hold a basic level EMT card you need to be involved with an organization such as a fire district, either as a volunteer or paid employee. Gonder said after the basics, an intermediate EMT can administer intravenous therapy and other more advance procedures. At the paramedic level, they can administer medication.

Gonder is the program’s coordinator. He has five instructors, himself included. The class testing next month has approximately 20 students, most of whom are volunteer firefighters. One nurse is in the class so he can volunteer with Northern Lakes Fire. Even though he’s an RN, he has to have separate EMT training.

Butcher has seen much for his young age. He said the ambulances he works on average 18 calls a day, many from the elderly. Calls involving diabetics are frequent. The Coeur d’Alene crew is well-acquainted with the diabetics in their area.

“We know how to treat them every time,” Gonder said.

Whenever there is a fire call, an ambulance is dispatched.

“Everybody is cross-trained as a firefighter/EMT in Coeur d’Alene,” Butcher said.

Gonder said the ambulance crew is always in full protective equipment and are the first to enter a burning building. Safety is stressed – students are taught to never put themselves in a situation where they can be cornered.

“We teach safety in the EMT class,” Gonder said. “We train every day on personal safety.”

He said in class the students are taught to take care of themselves so they can take care of their patients.

Greif said he elected to have North Idaho College administer the EMT Basic program because his staff has no time for the paperwork – so they partnered with them to do the teaching.

This spring semester class tests May 16. The test for practical hands-on is pass/fail; a student must score at least 70 percent to receive the EMT Basic card.

Where EMT Basic is ground-level training, paramedic Mark Zandhuisen is teaching the first semester of a credited, advanced EMT certificate program. He only has three students, but it was put together on short notice to get students interested. Zandhuisen said some don’t go any further than basic EMT, but many go beyond paramedic to become nurses.

Correspondent Linda Ball can reached at
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