This month, South Whidbey Fire/EMS welcomes five new Emergency Management Technicians (EMTs): Gabrielle Renville, Suzanne Reynolds, Nicole Helseth, Nicole Hagen and Clay O’Brien.

Classroom instruction began in August. Due to COVID-19, the academy was held online and utilized a platform called “JBLearning” to deliver much of the curriculum. The academy is 16 challenging weeks of study, training, and testing. Coursework traditionally starts with topics such as medical terminology, communications and anatomy. It quickly moves into more hands-on scenarios. The virus created new obstacles, and modifications were made to safely merge online instruction with critical, in-person experience.

“Even in the best of circumstances, the EMT academy is an intense experience,” said Deputy Chief Wendy Moffatt, who is in charge of training. “We tend to cover a lot of ground quickly. Given the pandemic, it was even more daunting this year.”

Moffatt explained how impressed she was with the focus and determination of these recruits.

“Everyone was incredibly driven to work through the requirements, despite the cloud of uncertainty created by the pandemic. Can you imagine adding something as formidable as the EMT academy to your plate right now? I am so proud of them. These EMTs will serve our community well, with true passion and professionalism.”

The new EMTs are already answering calls as first responders to local emergencies. They will now attend weekly drills and frequent trainings to keep their skills sharp and make sure they are prepared to handle whatever scenarios they may encounter. The South Whidbey Fire/EMS fire  academy begins in January 2021.

South Whidbey Fire/EMS provides emergency services to 15,600 people over 66 square miles. The fire district has a few full-time and part-time personnel, but the department relies heavily on volunteers to respond to an average of 2,600 calls a year, the majority of which are medical emergencies.