Home News EMS coordinator for VGCC teaches life-saving skills to next-generation first responder

EMS coordinator for VGCC teaches life-saving skills to next-generation first responder

People swimming in a pond

Steve Barney is the coordinator/instructor for Emergency Medical Services programs at Vance-Granville Community College, but he recently taught a different set of students than he usually does – with life-saving results.

This summer, Barney led a “Fire Camp” for 26 kids in Warren County in his capacity as chief of the Hawtree Volunteer Fire Department. Then, he helped with the Gaston Fire-Rescue-EMS Kids Fire Camp in Northampton County, which was attended by some 70 children between the ages of 10-14.

“I assisted with teaching [at Gaston] most of the week,” Barney recalled. “I got a call from the fire Chief afterward, and was told about a camper that was in the camp. I assisted with teaching Water Rescue on Thursday, August 5, and the next Tuesday (Aug. 10), one of the campers was able to assist another child to prevent a drowning.”

As the Gaston Fire-Rescue-EMS department posted on its Facebook page, “Following camp graduation, one of our campers went on vacation with his family to Virginia Beach. While at the pool, the camper noticed that a young child was drowning. Our camper jumped into action with the training he was just taught and saved the young child…We commend this camper for his valiant efforts.”

Barney noted that not only do the camps provide valuable skills to students, but they also help address a major recruiting challenge. “Over 70% of local fire departments are volunteer,” he explained. “There has been a shortage of volunteers for years now, so we have been looking at ways to improve recruitment.” These camps that introduce students to fire service at an early age represent one solution.

“Fire departments in the counties where the camps are being held are now getting volunteers from these camps,” Barney noted. “Hawtree VFD now has five junior firemen, and all but one has come from the kids camp. Gaston VFD is experiencing the same results with multiple juniors coming from the camp.”

Barney is not only a volunteer firefighter and instructor but also a parent of one of the young people involved. “My son has been going to the Gaston Fire-Rescue-EMS camp for the last four years, and I have helped with certain blocks of instruction for the last three years there,” he said.

Barney has also organized the Warren County program for the past three years. “At these camps, kids learn many skills, including CPR, first aid, fire extinguisher use, hose stream and appliances, water rescue, wilderness rescue, ladders, vehicle fires, vehicle extrication, ropes, rappelling, and personal protective equipment,” he explained. “We also teach them about teamwork. And one of the biggest take-aways from these camps is the fact that kids are learning skills that can, and have, saved lives.”

For more information on EMS training at VGCC, call (252) 738-3273 or email barneys@vgcc.edu .