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Hackensack Area First Response to host reunion April 27

Hackensack Area First Response will hold a reunion Saturday, April 27, of team members and other area emergency services personnel they worked with through the last 35 years, followed by an open house for the public at the Hackensack Fire Hall.

The potluck reunion will run from 1-3 p.m., with the open house scheduled from 3-5 p.m.

In 1975, the late Louis Chalich, then sheriff, asked the Hackensack Sno-Bo snowmobile club to start a rescue service for snowmobilers. Chick Stewart, a Pleasant Lake resident, donated a rescue sled, which was kept at the fire hall, said Mary Parrish, one of the early responders.

Chalich issued them identification badges. The group set about taking an advanced first aid class. Mike Rohr, then owner and emergency medical technician (EMT) of Pine River Ambulance, and his staff helped them get additional training, Parrish recalled.

The Hackensack group had no formal EMT training, but took the state certification test anyway and passed, so were certified, Parrish said.

This caused quite a stir from the state, because they had not taken the full EMT training. Their certification was ultimately grandfathered in, however, so the first group could continue their service, she said.

Today, any new EMTs take 110 hours of training and take the test before being certified. All certified EMTs also take annual refresher courses now.

By 1978, Hackensack First Response began responding to all types of medical emergencies. Ambulances could take up to an hour to reach callers, so having responders coming from their homes around the area cut response time dramatically, Parrish recalled.

Hackensack officially became a non-profit agency in 1984, then merged with Hackensack Fire Department in 2005 to form Hackensack Fire and Rescue.

Hackensack’s Centennial History book published in 2003 noted the first response team then averaged 130 calls a year. By 2012, Hackensack Rescue responded to 207 calls.

Dawn Peterson, who has been active in the group since 1986, said the fact area ambulance services have gone from volunteer services to a service North Memorial Ambulance runs with full-time staff has made a huge difference in response times. The ambulance can reach most parts of rural Hackensack in 20 minutes to a half hour — half the time volunteer ambulance services took.

Communications also have dramatically improved with the new emergency communications system Cass County installed for all emergency services last year. Services can communicate with each other or within their own work group, she said.

For more information about Hackensack Rescue Service or the reunion and open house, contact Parrish at 218-675-5818 or Peterson at 218-675-6111.