BRANDON Along the busy Route 7 thoroughfare in the heart of historic Brandon, Vt., is a unique station where community volunteerism is alive and wellthe Brandon Area Rescue Squad, Inc., or simply BARS. Its not just that Brandons squad members are willing to work without pay, but its also their desire to perform an important humanitarian servicethat makes them, and similar volunteers, some of Vermonts most vital human resources. Individuals of the Brandon Area Rescue Squad have numerous "real-world" problems and challenges to face almost everyday. The volunteers regularly tackle emergency situations that are literally matters of life and death. They respond to more 700 calls annually involving respiratory and cardiac emergencies, motor vehicle accidents, and much more. Currently, there are 43 Brandon-area volunteers and one full-time chief operations officer. Maintaining the squads ability to provide top-quality care requires in-depth training in all areas of emergency medicine. The skills each rescuer needs must be constantly reviewed and updated. This is accomplished through weekly squad training and courses sponsored by Vermont Emergency Medical Services. Classes teach patient assessment and practical skills and include semi-automatic defibrillation training, a potentially life-saving treatment for a patient in cardiac arrest. Students learn how to assist in the administration of specific prescribed medications. Each student must pass the states written and practical exam to be certified as an EMT-B in Vermont, and to qualify as a nationally registered EMT. There is also the EMT-Intermediate in which students learn more advanced care including medication administration as well as intravenous access. However, some individuals start with their FRECA (First Responder Emergency Care Attendant) certification to obtain experience with handling of oxygen and proper first-aid techniques. Retaining and recruiting members is a major challenge facing most volunteer groups today. Brandon is fortunate to have a dedicated group who have made a commitment to the community. As a team, the squad covers Brandon and surrounding towns 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, staffing remains major challenge for the volunteer rescue squad. Chief Operations Officer Scott Supernaw said, BARS is experiencing some growth in volunteer interest, but we still have weak scheduling areas. Most of our volunteers work outside of Brandon in positions that do not allow them to leave for an ambulance call. This effect has led many ambulance services in Vermont to add paid daytime providers. Even facing these ongoing challenges, under Supernaws leadership, the squad added a new ambulance in April. It increased its BARS license to paramedic status. According to Supernaw, the purpose of bringing on paramedics and upgrading the BARS license is to provide earlier advanced care to the populations we serve. Paramedic care is the highest in the nation and before the upgrade, every patient needed to wait for aparamedic to meet the BARS ambulance enroute. New volunteers are always welcome to join the squads proud tradition. If interested, contact Supernaw at 802-247-3231. Freelance writer Angela DeBlasio, EMT-B, lives in Brandon.