WILLIAMSTOWN — A public safety program is creating a pool of potential lifesavers among Northern Berkshire's youngest citizens.

Village Ambulance Service launched its Explorer Post 911 about three months ago, and its hands-on focus is boosting members' abilities and self-assurance, said post adviser John Harris, who also is an emergency medical technician.

"Having youthfully engaged as active participants is something positive," he said. "It builds people."

The program is affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America Learning for Life endeavor and has two components: a club accepting youth ages 8 to 13 and a youth program open to those 14 to 20 years old. The groups are co-educational.

"These younger kids, the club group, are learning the basics of emergency medical services," Harris said. "They learn about 911 calling, they learn the [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] basics. Our group is certified to perform CPR on friends and family. They buddy up with our emergency medical technicians and we work with them ."

The youth program currently has 11 members enrolled.

"The older kids are paired with paramedics serving as mentors," Harris said. "They get involved with advanced first aid. Our youth are all certified in CPR and [automated external defibrillator] intervention. Everyone learns the Heimlich maneuver. We try to prepare them as health care providers and there is just about a 100 percent interest in becoming an EMT, a paramedic, a nurse or something in health care."


Program Treasurer Alexander Ciskowski, of North Adams, plans to graduate in June from Mount Greylock Regional High School.

"I plan to attend nursing school," he said. "This program gives skills that will be great to already possess. For me, being part of the community and setting a good example is something that lets other kids think 'look, there are things we can do besides drinking alcohol or doing drugs.' You can acquire and hone important skills and put them to good use in your community. I have always believed that first responders are a big part of a community."

Cheshire resident Brianna Harris is the group secretary and a Charles H. McCann Technical School sophomore.

"I realized that I want to be a paramedic," she said. "Being part of this has built my confidence and I think more kids should get involved. It keeps kids off the street. I am proud of myself. It feels good to know that I have the skills to save a life."

Career focus is an important Explorer component, said Ryan Biros, who is the unit commissioner for the BSA Appalachian Trail Western Massachusetts Council. Programs can target law enforcement, fire services or aviation as well as other options, he said.

If the costs associated with membership are a problem for families, the ambulance service will assist, said Executive Director Michael Witowski. Members pay a $20 membership fee. The BSA offers financial assistance as well, Biros said.

The post hosts a Facebook page showcasing their events and activities. A community Safety Agencies Mingle picnic hosted by post members is scheduled for July 16 at the Williamstown Elementary School. The noon to 6 p.m. event is expected to feature live entertainment and public safety demonstrations and an award presentation ceremony honoring VAS public safety partners us planned.

Harris said he hopes that enrollment increases as people learn about the program.

"I would love to have hundreds of kids in this," he said. "I really would."

Learn more ...

For information about Explorer Post 911, contact Harris at Harris1768@yahoo.com or 413-347-6757.