GRAFTON, Vt. – Forty years ago, there were no Emergency Medical Services available in Grafton; and when an emergency did occur, residents had to call an ambulance company in Bellows Falls and hope it could respond in time. A handful of concerned people came forward from the community with a solution, which was to form a local EMS response group known as the First Aid Stabilization Team or FAST Squad. Initially, this group had no vehicle and little equipment, usually carrying what they needed in paper bags using their personal vehicles.
During the remaining months of that first year, the Squad responded to 11 calls, which were made directly to the ambulance service in Bellows Falls as there would be no 911 services until 1990. FAST Squad members would then be notified to respond by the ambulance service.
Today, the Squad members are alerted via the pagers they carry, and by cell phone when service is available, and are on scene 20-30 minutes before the ambulance arrives. The number of calls to which they respond has grown considerably, averaging over 70 calls each year with last year having a record high of 88 calls.
For the first four years, Squad members responded with what limited gear they cold quickly gather and carry with them in their personal vehicles until 1985 when a seven-year-old ambulance was donated by the Cranford, N.J. First Aid Squad. Then in 1993, this vehicle was replaced by another seven-year-old ambulance from Chelsea, Vt., which served until it was replaced in 2008 with a new custom designed multi-purpose rescue truck. Squad members who respond first on scene will still typically arrive in their personal vehicles to expedite aid to the patient, but the rescue truck carrying a wide array of first aid supples and medical equipment will be close behind.
Today, now known as the Grafton Rescue Squad due to having more advanced training and able to provide a broader range of on-scene medical services, the underlying tenets of the organization remain the same: that a group of unpaid volunteers will seek to have the best possible training and equipment in order to provide free emergency medical care to the Grafton community 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
The effectiveness and dedication of the Squad was recognized in 2009 when it was named the Vermont First Responder Service of the Year. Over the past 40 years, 61 people have come forward to serve as FAST or Rescue Squad members, usually numbering a dozen or so at any given time. Currently, there are 15 members whose certifications include Advanced Emergency Medical Technician, Emergency Medical Technician, and Emergency Medical Responder.
Under the leadership of Keith Hermiz who has twice been named Vermont EMS Educator of the Year, Grafton Rescue has taken the lead in training EMS, Fire, and Police responders throughout Southern and Central Vermont in the use of advanced CPR skills and updated techniques to stop bleeding.
At the recent Town Picnic in Grafton, the Squad had a display highlighting its 40-year history and introduced to the community a printed history of the FAST Rescue Squad. Entitled “First On Scene” and written by longtime Squad member David Ross, the book contains statistical information, photos, and reminiscences spanning 1981-2021. The book is being sold as a fundraiser for the Squad. Copies may be obtained by check payable to the Grafton Rescue Squad, P.O. Box 54, Grafton, VT 05146. For more information, go to www.facebook.com/Grafton-Fire-and-Rescue-209752895725705.