Meet the supplier: Guardian First Aid Service

The resource extraction companies around Elkford, B.C., have first responders available for medical emergencies

A woman standing beside a black pickup truck carrying a white camper with a sign saying Treatment Centre Guardian First Aid

Debby Tomich is a paramedic who owns and operates Guardian First Aid Service in Elkford, B.C. — Photo courtesy Debby Tomich

As an industry, resource extraction needs support services for its infrastructure, its equipment and its people. Guardian First Aid Service in Elkford, B.C., provides first response and on-site first aid for personnel in the field.

We spoke to Debby Tomich, owner of Guardian, to learn more about her and her work.

How long have you lived in Elkford?
I moved here from Rossland in 1973 to join my husband, who was working at Fording River.

How did you get involved in the first aid business?
I’ve always liked to help people. While I was in high school I volunteered as a candy striper at the Rossland hospital, and I always had my first aid ticket. Eventually, I became a paramedic with BC Ambulance Service, and in 2003, I became owner of Guardian First Aid.

Can you describe how your business works?
Guardian has five fully equipped MTCs (medical treatment centres) for everything from small wounds to major injuries. The company gets contracts with businesses that need first aid attendants at work sites, and we also provide first response in emergencies. Along with first aid, we also do loss prevention for the companies.

How many people do you employ?
Last year I had a big contract with Teck—the Wheeler Project. It was a 24-7 job, so I needed eight people to cover the shifts and at least two people for backup. I had six contracts on the go, so I had a total of 14 staff plus myself.

What are the challenges of doing this type of work in the Elkford area?
The terrain is the main challenge. In the summer it’s not bad, but in the fall we have snow and avalanches and wildlife to contend with. We always know who is on site and we’re in radio contact, so if a bear is sighted, we get on the radio and tell everyone where it is, so everyone is aware.

Teck does site orientation and requires us to do an online training and pass a test. They have a big commitment to safety. BC Hydro and the gas companies require us to have specific safety tickets to make sure we stay safe too. I make sure my employees have an H2S ticket (methane gas safety), confined space training, bear aware training and fire safety, over and above their other tickets.

What kind of person does it take to do this kind of work, in this environment?
You have to be willing to be on your own as a first responder, and be able to take on the role of leader. You have to be sure you know the proper protocols and procedures to follow to take care of the person who’s hurt, and to get them out of the situation if necessary.

Last year all of my staff were women, and that seems to be the trend. Our job isn’t glorious—much of our time is spent just waiting to be needed. It’s not that we want to be busy, because a quiet day is a good day—it means no one got hurt.

Marie Milner

Marie Milner is a writer and photographer for Kootenay Business magazine and several other publications. She appreciates the inspiration that she gets during her interviews and hopes to share that inspiration with you. View all of Marie Milner’s articles

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