When help seems far away, Errol Rescue Squad founder, award winner, is close by
BERLIN — The founder of an emergency response service in one of New England's most remote and toughest-to-reach areas has been chosen as the winner of the 2014 Sylvia Evans Award for community service.
Elsie Hall started the Errol Rescue Squad more than 30 years ago, and it continues to provide ambulance service throughout a sparsely populated area of the North Country and neighboring Maine that includes Diamond, Dartmouth Second College Grant, the townships of Millsfield, and Magalloway and Upton in Maine.
"The calls we get most often are for cardiac incidents, snowmobile crashes and ATV accidents," Hall said in a news release from the Berlin-based Coos County Family Health Services that sponsors the annual award.
The award is particularly timely this winter, given the snowmobile accidents in the North Country, many involving inexperienced riders using rented machines at high speeds.
Calls to the Errol service for help often come from forested trails where access is difficult, Hall said.
"We try to get help within the 'golden hour,' when damage is most easily treated and reversible," she said.
Errol Rescue uses Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital in Colebrook and Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin for calls involving more serious injuries.
Rescue squad personnel also summon Dartmouth-Hitchcock's DHART helicopter, and in recent years has been relying on the 45th Parallel EMT Service in Colebrook for response.
Hall and her daughter, Terri Ruel — both qualified as first responders — founded the service in the early 1980s. Both Elsie and her daughter were qualified as first responders, and achieved Certified EMT-B level in 1983.
With a friend, Mike Kennard, who has served as an Errol selectman and now works as a dispatcher, they equipped their own vehicles with first aid supplies and medical equipment.
The Halls are carrying on what's now four generations of a family tradition that includes Elsie's granddaughters. Her father, Everett Eames, helped at the garage that he owned by serving as chief of the Errol Volunteer Fire Department for 23 years.
In the 1990s, Errol Rescue bought a 1979 van-style ambulance for a dollar, used money gleaned from fundraisers and donations to equipping it.
"They held bake sales, car washes and road tolls," said Rebecca Bean, chief of the rescue squad.
Since 1981, the award named for Sylvia V. Forman Evans — a rural health-care advocate who did much to improve care in the North Country, has been presented. The 2013 award went to Linda Morris of Berlin.
The ceremony to honor Hall will take place on April 11, at 7 p.m., at White Mountains Community College.