A fire engine and an ambulance show up at a neighbor’s door (or maybe yours) following a 911 call for emergency assistance.
You wonder, why are two emergency units and so many firefighters and medics necessary? Isn’t this an overuse of resources? The answer is no for three very good reasons. Battalion Chief Sherry Neeley, who leads the medical services side of the Sun City Fire and Medical Department, helped me understand.
Sun City Fire and Medical Department participates in an automatic aid program with surrounding cities. This means that response to a 911 call is taken by the closest unit available. This minimizes response time when minutes make all the difference in an emergency. In order to be part of that program, the department must meet the same or better criteria as all participating departments.
The truck unit must have four firefighters with a minimum of two trained as paramedics and the ambulance has two emergency medical technicians. Sun City opted to have one paramedic and one EMT on the ambulance to provide a higher level of care.
Central dispatch uses information from the 911 call to determine what apparatus is dispatched. This is why you may not see an ambulance on scene. But the arriving crew may call for an ambulance if their assessment of the patient requires transport to a hospital emergency department.
The second reason has to do with the skills and demands placed on the firefighters and medics. The EMTs are trained to provide basic life support, which includes first aid, CPR, blood pressure and basic airway access. Paramedics provide advanced life support. They administer drugs, do IVs, run and interpret EKGs, and intubate an airway. Upon arrival, the emergency units carry life-saving tools to assess and stabilize the patient if transport to the ER is necessary.
The third reason is management and administration in the emergency setting. One crew member, typically the captain, oversees the scene, the lead paramedic takes personal information on the patient and communicates that to the ER. There often is fear and confusion among the relatives, which can interfere with treatment to the patient. Another responder may have to be a counselor, usually the captain. Then while the patient is being treated the high-tech gurney must be brought in and prepared for the patient. This takes two persons, typically the EMTs from the ambulance. Five individuals are now involved. Even if a resident has fallen, it may take three responders to orient and lift a patient safely.
Just a reminder that if you have ever been to an ER treatment room the intensity and focus are great. There may be 4-6 staff working on a patient and they don’t have to be concerned about preparing the patient for safe transport.
So, six firefighters/medics and two vehicles on scene mean they are prepared for the worst-case scenario to provide the best level of care.
I am sure we can all agree that maximum efficiency and help at a time of medical emergency are gratefully welcomed from our first responders.
Editor’s Note: Phil Griswold is Sun City Fire District Auxiliary board president.
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