First Responders get new equipment

Published 9:45 am Thursday, December 16, 2010

HOLLANDALE — Despite a blizzard that hit southern Minnesota last weekend, causing treachourous — not to mention difficult — driving conditions, the Hollandale First Responders were still able to get to the scene of an emergency call on Sunday, thanks to their new rig.

“The new rig is four-wheel drive, which is a real asset to us,” said first responder John Heijerman. “We can get in and out a lot easier.”

The truck is actually an older rig, a 1995 model with 14,000 miles, but it’s “like brand new.” Heijerman said the new rig was previously owned and used by the U.S. Air Force. It holds up to 12 people at a time, which he said is handy since they have 13 responders on the crew who all try to ride together on emergency calls.

The First Responders were able to purchase the rig, thanks to donations.

Heijerman said the rig was purchased solely with donated funds from private donations, along with about $12,600 in proceeds from the 2009 and 2010 Harvest Festival.

Amy Ogren, organizer of the annual fall festival, said the idea to donate proceeds to the first responders was raised by the fire chief at a city council meeting.

“They help everyone in town,” she said. “All of us benefit from what they do to help, and the public sentiment was very strong to help them get this rig.”

This is the third truck that the Hollandale First Responders have purchased since the squad originated in 1985.

Only two of the current responders, Heijerman and Bernie Drenth, have been with the squad since it started 25 years ago.

The original crew had 10 members who all took a 56-hour class.

“Now, that’s changed a lot,” Heijerman said.

The squad now consists of 13 total members: seven men and five women. Of these responders, four are husband-wife teams and five are nurses.

“We’re pretty professional now,” Heijerman said. “That really helps us out.”

The Hollandale First Responders respond to about 30 calls a year, which Heijerman said is fewer than the number they used to receive.

“We were one of the first resonder squads around, so we used to go to Clarks Grove, Geneva and Hayward,” he said. “It works well with everyone else having their own now.”

Most of their calls are in the rural areas, and they deal with three different ambulance squads: Albert Lea, Austin and Blooming Prairie, depending on where the call comes from. First responders do not transport. They arrive at the scene and take care of the patient until the ambulance crew arrives.

Something else new that’s useful now is the GPS they use in the rig.

“A lot of the calls are way out in the country and hard to find, especially if it’s snowy or foggy,” he said.

Being part of a volunteer squad — nobody gets paid — takes a good deal of dedication for the community, and Heijerman pointed out only one down side.

“We deal with a lot of people we know, friends, relatives,” he said.