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EMS Week Spotlights Courage of WNY Emergency Responders

By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-838469.mp3

Cheektowaga, NY – Several of Erie County's dedicated emergency responders joined county officials Tuesday to commemorate Emergency Medical Services week. The recognition comes just months after the crash of Flight 3407, the biggest disaster ever faced by local emergency responders.

Sometimes, the weeks that are set aside for special recognition of various groups can be a bit empty and ceremonious. A few words of praise in a proclamation followed by polite applause. But Tuesday's backdrop of firefighters, paramedics, and Mercy Flight crew standing tall behind the podium was a reminder of just how solemn and poignant this year's commemoration is. Erie County Executive Chris Collins pointed to some of the more profound examples of their invaluable service, from the hepatitus infections, to the crash of Flight 3407, and the current Swine Flu outbreak.

But it was the plane crash that perhaps most demonstrated that Erie County emergency responders have the right stuff.

Erie County Emergency Services Commissioner Greg Skibitsky said teamwork was crucial. And Skibitsky said volunteers are an integral part of the county's emergency team response.

Officials said about two thirds of all emergency medical services providers are volunteers. But in recent years, those ranks have been shrinking as current volunteers age and the demands of the job make it harder to find young recruits. Skibitsky said they have to find ways to improve recruitment and retention.

He said the county recently received a federal grant that will help promote recruitment and provide training for new volunteers.

Click the audio player above to hear Joyce Kryszak's story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.