BECKLEY, W.Va. — A big change is coming to Raleigh County’s 13 volunteer fire departments.

Starting Sunday March 11, volunteer firefighters will be allowed to be dispatched to medical calls in which CPR and AED use is needed. Raleigh County Firefighter’s Association Treasurer Bobby Palmer said they came up with the idea because response time is crucial during medical calls.

“There’s times when ambulances are running thin in the area so an ambulance may have to come from 30 minutes away. Whereas a volunteer fire department maybe can be on scene within a couple minutes or so, depending on the location. The time difference there can be the difference in whether or not that patient survives.”

No additional training will be needed for this program to get started. Palmer explained all firefighters already have the skill and training necessary to respond to cardiac arrest calls.

“Firefighters in West Virginia already have to be certified in this to be a firefighter. There’s really no additional training or anything and it’s just a way for us to give back to the community.”

Before this initiative, only EMS-certified units were able to respond to medical calls in Raleigh County. Authorities hope the program will be a life-saving tool to the community.

“We strongly believe in this program. We believe that the earlier the CPR begins the better chance that patient has of survival. That is our entire intent, to increase the chance of survival of the patients within Raleigh County.”

Early CPR has been proven to be essential in resuscitation, Palmer said.

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