A joint effort between St. John Rescue and the Rotary Club of St. John resulted in the purchase of an oxygen generator so Rescue and government agencies don’t have to depend on shipping the gas from Miami.
“One major hurricane could shut down the port,” Rescue training officer Bob Malacarne said at the unveiling ceremony Sunday at Rescue’s headquarters on Centerline Road.
According to Malacarne, oxygen has been shipped from Miami to St. Croix, then distributed to St. Thomas and finally to St. John. The oxygen generator has changed all that.
Getting the oxygen generator was a long process that began when Malacarne spoke to Rotary on March 25, 2011. John Fuller, the Rotary member responsible for raising much of the money to pay for the equipment, said Malacarne’s purpose was to talk about CPR, but at the end of his remarks, he mentioned the problem caused by the island’s inability to generate its own oxygen.
“He asked if we could help, and that’s what we do – help,” Fuller said.
It took from March 2011 until June 2012 for Fuller to get a grant application in progress. He said the money arrived in May 2012, and the equipment was ordered in October or November 2012. It arrived March 15, but it took until May 6 for the installation process to be complete. Rescue filled its first bottles May 6.
Rotary raised $52,750 toward the purchase with Rescue coming up with about $16,000 to complete the purchase, Fuller said.
Some of Rotary’s share came from matching funds raised by Puerto Rico’s Rotary E-Club. John Richardson, chairman of the Rotary Foundation of Puerto Rico, was on hand for the unveiling.
“Our job is to ensure projects like these get funded when you donate money to the Foundation,” he said.
Since May, Malacarne said Rescue volunteers filled about 10 bottles for their group’s needs, 10 bottles for the Health Department’s Emergency Medical Service, and some for V.I. National Park. Malacarne said the oxygen produced by the generator is the purer medical grade, not the commercial grade that arrived from Miami.
Park Superintendent Brion FitzGerald said the oxygen bottles are primarily used at lifeguard stands and by some of the protection staff.
Malacarne said Rescue is working on a memorandum of understanding with Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center to fill its oxygen bottles.
For now, Malacarne said, Rescue is filling bottles for government agencies only at no charge. He said the day might come when Rescue could fill bottles for residents and visitors but since it is a volunteer organization, it doesn’t have the staff to do it.
He said the oxygen generator can fill five tanks at a time. It takes about 20 minutes to fill a small one and a half hour to 40 minutes for a larger tank.
More information on St. John Rescue is available online at www.stjohnrescue.com/. Learn more about the Rotary Club at www.clubrunner.ca/Portal/Home.aspx?accountid=1577
Note: This story has been edited to give the correct price of the oxygen generating unit. The Source regrets the error.