EMT Michelle Hansen: Falls Village is Family Strong

Michelle Hansen grew up in the Falls Village Fire Department. Her father served as chief and her mother was active in the Ladies Auxiliary. Like smoke from a fire, the experience permeated her. As an adult also joined the Auxiliary but in time wanted to serve in another way.

Eleven years ago she enrolled in Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) classes and has been answering emergency calls ever since. “I love to help people. It’s ingrained in me. It’s what I want to do,” says Michelle.

As Michelle remembers, “It’s a lot of training but the members of the squad helped to get me through. We’re a very close firehouse family. We support each other as a whole.” This close-knit band of first responders is housed in the Falls Village Volunteer Fire Department building, which opened three years ago.

“We have a small number of EMTs--five, and we have EMRs as well. We pick up and go when each of us can and respond to all emergency calls in our town. NDP (Northern Dutchess Paramedics) intercepts with us for some calls and we provide mutual aid to our bordering towns--North Canaan, Salisbury, and Cornwall. They support us as well,” she explains.

Volunteering as an EMT in one’s town has two sides. Giving back in one’s own community is a great reward, “When you respond to those you know in town--and those you don’t--it’s comforting. It’s nice to take care of the community.”

Yet there’s also sorrow. “If we have a serious call we gather for a critical incident debriefing and bring in counselors if we need to, Michelle describes. “For day-to-day stress, we support each other and help each other through it. Some calls affect some members differently.”

COVID-19 has required additional training, practices, and preparation for the squad. Part of the challenge is taking the time to suit up and don PPE when time is of the essence during an emergency call.  Michelle remarks, “It’s stressful but everyone’s getting used to it. It takes more time but it’s the new normal. I don’t know when I’m going to feel comfortable going on a call again without a mask.”

Michelle is also the Emergency Medical Director for Falls Village. In that volunteer position she’s wading through COVID-19 information that changes every day. “I talk with others in the same situation about how we’re handling it, what we could do differently.”

Michelle misses the “normal life” of the squad. They can’t gather like they used to, except to go out on a call. While the pandemic may test the bonds of family, there’s no doubt for her that they’ll come through the way the squad always does--together.

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