Response to medical emergencies in the Lakeside and Somers communities has rested on the shoulders of local volunteers for nearly 40 years.
Last summer, however, a newcomer stepped in to serve as the Lakeside Quick Response Unit’s first paid, part-time position to help lighten the load of increased involvement from responders and demand for their services.
Director of Operations Jordan Owen brings about 30 years of emergency-response experience to his new position, 25 of which he’s spent as a paramedic.
Though he said the volunteers who have led the Lakeside QRU in the past have historically been successful, the unit’s aim to further conform to national standards and improve the quality of its operations required a leader able to devote a set amount of time to the unit each week.
“Having a leadership position that is a volunteer is a difficult thing because volunteers have to balance their life and work with volunteerism,” Owen said. “So when you have a leadership position that follows along with that, it can wax and wane as to its effectiveness.”
Owen has held a variety of emergency-management positions, including fire chief, incident commander and paramedic for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, founder of a two-helicopter medical program in Haiti and manager of an air and medical program in Wyoming and Montana.
He described emergency medical response as very labor-intensive, especially for the responders.
Rarely does Owen leave the office after completing the 25 hours a week required. His extensive to-do list and desire to support his responders, he said, keeps him at the hall long after he’s clocked out.
“My approach to it is, a servant leadership is basically lifting up my people,” Owen said. “We’re moving the barriers for them so they can be happy and productive and fruitful in their experiences being a part of the QRU.”
Originally from a small town near Yosemite National Park in California, Owen and his wife chose to make Lakeside their new home and adapt to their new community rather than change it.
“It’s not very well-viewed when outsiders want to come in and change things and make it like their past or bring a different state’s culture to the environment,” Owen said, “and I think it’s super important to basically break it down to the fundamentals of appreciating the local environment, why I want to live here.”
Working in the emergency response and medical fields, he said, leave their mark on both volunteers and professionals. The hours of training, the random calls, the chaos of the incidents and the physical and emotional toll require a taxing amount of commitment from responders.
“Being in this business for such a long time, there have been times when I’ve gone through the hardships and the depression of this business and how it basically just keeps taking,” Owen said. “Being in an environment like Lakeside and Somers, people haven’t lost the genuine common courtesy. We hear a lot of praise, a lot of thank yous.”
The role Owen now plays as the unit’s first paid, part-time employee enables him to oversee the organization in its entirety.
His duties include complying with unit protocols, handling issues with insurance billing, adhering to state and federal regulations, personnel management, support and guidance for volunteers, acting as a liaison between the volunteer responders and the board members and more.
“Sometimes it’s sweeping, mopping, washing the ambulance,” Owen said. “Being able to not only help lead and coach and mentor folks, I can work alongside them, hand in hand, and share the opportunities we have and share the craft we love.”
Another new addition to the unit Owen said he will depend on as director is the auxiliary group comprised of community members eager to support the responders in their ancillary needs.
Those include fundraising, educating the public on the services the unit offers and acting as their ambassadors to the residents they both serve and rely on.
He stressed the need for the community to continue the support it has always given to the QRU as the costs and need for volunteers, both for response and support, rises.
“The crux of our responsibility is to take care of our existing volunteer membership, as it is what helps keep the cost of this program lower to the community,” Owen said.
Going forward, he hopes to continue to improve the facility and services the unit offers to the community by raising money to build a training space within the building and purchase training equipment such as simulators and practice dummies.
The QRU currently offers a variety of programs to the public beyond its basic emergency response and transport service, including basic CPR and life-saving techniques, at little to no cost to them.
“Emergencies happen with or without responders,” Owen said, “and we just hope that within the community, we have passionate, competent responders that are always willing to basically sacrifice themselves for the gift of giving to others.”
Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.