It starts with a call to 9-1-1. Except when the victim walks up to the front door of Chris Helberg's house in Ukiah, or a neighbor calls a member of the Quick Response Team at home.

"We respond to 30 to 70 incidents a year," Helberg said. Those calls include automobile and four-wheeler accidents, horse-related and gunshot injuries, broken bones and heart attacks.

"We get a lot of calls during hunting season," she said. "There are so many people out in the woods then."

Helberg, who is certified as an intermediate emergency medical technician, or EMT, joined the Ukiah Quick Response Team when she moved to town in 1989. Membership in the team has gone up and down since it started in 1979, and recently had dropped to two.

In January, Helberg offered a first responder class. Eight people signed up, some to renew their certification and some to get it for the first time. They paid for the texts and Helberg donated her time. With Helberg and three official drivers, the team now numbers 12.

QRT members learned how to assess an emergency situation, determine what needs to be done, and perform advanced first aid.

The team has had an ambulance since 1979 but under state law is not allowed to transport patients. The actual transport is done by the Pendleton ambulance.

"We've been out in the snow, in the summer, on fires," Helberg said. "We've packed people out of wilderness areas, we've packed them out on ATV's. We've got the patient all shipped and packaged and ready to go. It saves the Pendleton ambulance a lot of time."

The team's current ambulance was donated by the Pilot Rock Volunteer Fire Department when it acquired an ambulance from Pendleton. It is stocked with first aid supplies, oxygen, suction devices for airways, and a gurney. The team also has an automated defibrillator for heart attack victims.

Everyone on the team is a volunteer. Money to maintain the ambulance comes from donations and grants. Collection cans are set out in various business in Ukiah, and people who have been helped by the team often make donations. The Community Bargain Counter, a thrift shop in Pendleton, has given about $2000 over the years, and the AmVets organization has donated about $3000.

It costs about $1000 a year to keep the ambulance going, Helberg said.

"And that will go up significantly in the next few years," she added. The team's physician advisor, Dr. Robert Boss, who practices in Boardman, donates his time. Helberg said that when he retires the team may have to pay for an advisor. In addition, the team may face additional costs for insurance.

The City of Ukiah carries vehicle insurance on the ambulance, and provides garage space at the Fire Department. The U.S. Forest Service has also provided support, and may help pay for training for team members who want to upgrade their certification.

Half the team members, including Helberg, work for the North Fork John Day Ranger District.

"I don't think I could quit," she said. "I'd have to move away. After you've done something in a town this size for so long, you're kind of set in that role."

Stephanie Picard volunteered for the team so she would be competent to deal with accidents or emergencies, especially those involving children.

"We always have a lot of little kids floating around in our yard," Picard said. "You never know what's going to occur. I could perform CPR and do first aid until the professionals come. I wouldn't be helpless."

Mike Gatens had taken CPR and first aid training as part of his Forest Service job for many years. Now he is a basic EMT and plans to take more classes and get certified as an intermediate EMT.

"I enjoy helping people," he said. "It's scary, but it makes you feel good. Ukiah has been shorthanded, and I wanted to do my part to help out."

Bill Gilliland, the emergency medical services coordinator for the Pendleton Ambulance Service, grew up in Ukiah. He remembers when the team was formed in 1979. Two nurses from Heppner offered the training, and the team acquired a retired ambulance from The Dalles.

Before that, Gilliland said, people who needed help with medical emergencies or injuries often had to wait well over an hour for medical attention. The quick response teams, which also exist in Pilot Rock and Meacham, make a big difference in patient outcomes.

"With so many illnesses and injuries," Gilliland said, "the first few minutes make a difference in whether the patient survives or not."

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