May 09, 2002 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

NORTH POWDER — "New" is in the eyes of the beholder, and as far as the North Powder Quick Response Team is concerned, their new vehicle is wonderful.

The 1990 Ford utility vehicle arrived in North Powder in March and is still awaiting it's first emergency call. But the response team is getting plenty of practice loading the stretcher, practicing with the new radio equipment and keeping their skills sharp.

Amanda Blake, a senior at Powder Valley High School, is one of four high school students on the 14-member quick response team, and one of only a few team members who aren't allowed to drive the new vehicle.

Blake, like the other three teens, Cody Barton, Anthony Swales and Dustin Swales, all took a First Responder class last year and became team members, often joining their parents as community volunteers in times of emergencies.

Blake's parents, Rose and Richard Blake, are both QRT volunteers.

Thursday, adults and teens grabbed a few minutes to practice loading a volunteer "patient" on the new stretcher into and out of the vehicle, practicing getting the stretcher legs folded up for loading.

The practice is needed, since the old unit, a surplus military vehicle from 1975 that was used and damaged during the Desert Storm action, didn't have room for a patient stretcher.

While the QRT unit isn't an ambulance, the members of the team often are first on the scene at accidents along the Interstate 84 stretch near North Powder. Often, in bad weather, they need to stabilize and warm a crash victim until the advanced life support ambulance can arrive. Being able to load a victim into a warm vehicle improves their ability to help, explained Blake.

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Donated homemade quilts on the new stretcher don't hurt anyone's feelings, either.

Looking at the freshly painted emergency unit, QRT team leader April Schuldt noted, "We've come a long way."

Schuldt was the person responsible for putting together the grant request for $22,000 to purchase the vehicle. The grant came from an Oregon Health & Science University rural health care program, she said.

The unit cost just under $20,000. The remaining money paid to have it repainted white with a blue logo and emergency-vehicle yellow striping, add supplies and upgrade the radio equipment.

A similar grant a year ago, Schuldt added, was used to get leads and chest patches for the team's defibrillator equipment.

Now, with a new unit, upgraded equipment and youthful volunteers, the QRT team just has one small worry as they await a call for help — all four of its teen members will head off to college or training school in the fall.

But maybe, the adults hope, that will be good in the long run. Two of the teens, including Blake, are heading for nursing school through OHSU at Eastern Oregon State University, and another, Cody Barton, has set a goal of becoming a Lifeflight helicopter pilot.

The new QRT unit, along with a recently acquired fire truck, will be on public display at the North Powder Fire Department Monday from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Reach T.L. Petersen at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it