The Chief’s Corner

By Robert W. Seltzer, BSEE, EFO, MPA, Smithfield Fire Dept. Chief

Fire department members are often asked “Why does a fire truck respond with a rescue unit for a medical emergency?”

Many EMS calls present situations that cannot be adequately addressed by a two-person rescue crew. The reason we send a fire truck along with the rescue unit is if the patient is critically ill or not able to walk and must be carried to our stretcher, the additional people staffing the fire truck ensure that patient care needs are met in a timely and safe manner.

Also, because medical emergencies sometimes occur in hazardous environments such as on a freeway or at the scene of a crime, a two-unit response provides for greater level safety of patients, fire department personnel, and bystanders.

No medical call is “routine.” Most require assessing the patient, obtaining their vital signs, providing oxygen therapy, and moving them, at a minimum. Rescue crews may also need to place an advanced airway, administer drugs intravenously, or monitor cardiac conditions. All of these procedures are completed more efficiently when the appropriate amount of help is on scene. Efficient care is our goal, and efficient care often is the difference between life and death.

In many cases, a fire truck can respond to and initiate vital emergency care before a rescue unit arrives. Especially in those cases where our rescue units are tied-up transporting patients to the hospital. We then rely upon rescue units from outside communities to assist us. This creates a long response time for those rescue units. Our fire trucks are always in town ready to respond and are equipped with appropriate medical equipment to initiate care.

One device that all fire trucks are equipped with is the AED or Automatic External Defibrillator. This piece of equipment is used to “Shock” or treat cardiac arrest patients. The chance of survival decreases dramatically the longer it takes to get the AED to the patients’ side. A patient’s chance of survival is dramatically reduced if the response time is delayed. Having a fire truck responding to the patient’s side increases the patient’s chance of survival.

The Smithfield Fire Department ensures the highest standard of care is being delivered to patients by providing the fastest response times as possible. These fast response times are achieved when the closest fire truck and rescue unit are dispatched to an emergency call.

From all of us at the

Smithfield Fire Department

Happy New Year!