EMS Committee – Managing Your Medical Risk in Pointe au Baril

Our president, Julia Sievwright formed a committee last summer to focus on medical emergency response and community preparedness in light of the demise of PaBERT. There are many heartfelt stories about how the PaBERT volunteers made a tangible difference in our lives and we thank them immeasurably for their community support. Our shared reality is that this support service is no longer available for offshore fire and medical emergencies. In light of this, Michael Evans, Medical Chair for PaBIA has outlined emergency procedures in past PaBIA Yearbook articles for your review.

We must all ask ourselves “can we manage medical risk at the cottage?”

PaBIA’s Actions to Date

PaBIA’s committee members, Tonia Blenkarn, Mike Evans, Gary French, Ed Garner, Julia Sievwright, Bill Watts and Scott Sheard worked to develop the following understanding and guiding principles to steer our collective efforts in this committee:

  •  Pointe au Baril is probably the riskiest environment that most of us experience in our lives;
  • We must consciously recognize that our ‘Near Wilderness’ community has real risks inherently different than our city life;
  •  Cottagers have extended their seasons and are able to enjoy living off-shore much later in life than in previous generations;
  • We all must take measures to prepare for, to manage and to mitigate risk;
  • Increase individual preparedness and planned response to emergencies;
  • Combine with the existing capabilities of emergency services and work with government agencies to provide services appropriate for water based community.

Essentially, our mandate is to improve the emergency medical preparedness of our community while making sense of our current response system. This could be viewed as a very ‘tall order’; however, we are pleased to report that our committee has made positive progress.

How do we receive emergency medical service off-shore, during the day, in the evening, and during inclement weather?

First of all, we must all understand and make sense of the current EMS system and ask ourselves these questions:

What should we expect of the first response system?
Who is responsible for delivering those services?
Who should we call in a medical emergency far from the mainland?
What should we do when 911 recommends that we bring the patient safely to mainland during a medical emergency?
Can we navigate at night or inclement weather in order to deliver an injured or ill loved one to the Station if required?
Do we have a cottage first aid kit capable of dealing with most medical situations?
Do we have the skills to provide basic first aid and/or take instruction from 911?
Is there a medical condition within the family that requires extra precautions?
Do we have a neighbour or neighbours who can be called upon to assist us?

As a Georgian Bay community, we are very lucky to have ambulances resident at Pointe au Baril Station and the Nursing Station. We all enjoy the ‘Near Wilderness’ setting of our cottage life on the Bay but we do not enjoy the immediacy of emergency services like the city. However, emergencies often happen at night and we can anticipate at least an hour’s wait in order for the OPP to transport paramedics to an island location should the OPP be available immediately.

What can we do to manage a medical emergency and mitigate delays in EMS transportation?

Increase Individual Preparedness

Our committee will be communicating measures to increase your preparedness for medical emergencies. For example, one should call 911 and have your municipal cottage address available and a clear description of the situation. The over-riding message from our EMS provider, and OPP Marine Unit is to be aware of your location at all times including your longitude and latitude coordinates from your GPS address obtained from your GPS device.
However, there are a number of initiatives that are common sense. For example, our family properties should have a ‘Cottage Emergency Plan’ that anticipates a medical or fire emergency. This would include equipment, identify who has first aid training within your family, and key items like municipal address clearly identified for all to use. Our committee will be providing a template outline for our members to utilize as appropriate.

Channel or Neighbour Emergency Plan

Our committee strongly recommends that you enlist your cottage neighbours for assistance in an emergency. Many of us are in more remote areas of Pointe au Baril and the long tradition of ‘neighbour calling upon neighbour’ only requires a more formal arrangement. The ‘Cottage Emergency Plan’ template can be further utilized for a channel plan.

First Aid Kits for Cottage

Our EMS in Parry Sound are assisting PaBIA in outlining what first aid kits could be utilized for boats, cottages, camping, and other scenarios. It is not unusual for families to have defibrillators (AED) or spinal injury boards as part of their first aid equipment. PaBIA will provide cost effective sources for our members to obtain ‘best practise’ first aid equipment for their cottages.

First Aid Training

Cottagers should have at least basic first training to deal with typical injuries sustained in our near wilderness community. Typical injuries include lacerations, broken bones, and snake bites to name a few. PaBIA also encouraged our community last summer to take a CPR course and arranged for St. John Ambulance to offer two CPR level “A” courses, as well as an AED course. The sessions were poorly subscribed and it has been suggested that cottagers may prefer to pursue their own training programs during the cottage off-season rather than vacation time.
Our committee felt that first aid training, resident within our families, is an important step in mitigating medical risk in our off-shore community.

Evening / Poor Weather Challenges

Night time is the greatest challenge to EMS Services in serving our community. Paramedics will be transported to off-shore locations in Pointe au Baril via the OPP Marine Unit out of Parry Sound. In the event that 911 advise you to transport an injured or ill person to the Station, someone in your household must be comfortable in navigating at night.
For those that are challenged by night time navigation, we urge you to practise your route in low-light conditions. Seek assistance in learning night time navigation from a friend or neighbour who is comfortable transiting in evening conditions. This could be a start to establishing neighbourly support along your channel in the event of an emergency.
PaBIA will communicate further suggestions on evening navigation like memorizing the tree-line along your route to the station that will allow you to transit to the Station or other final destinations safely.

Please consider our suggestions and should you have any questions or discussion points, please contact any of the committee members.