February 25, 2010 in Washington Voices

Fire crews get medical training

Cheney department upgrading its life support abilities
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Lisa Leinberger photo

Cheney firefighter Bill Dennstaedt, right, practices inserting an IV on instructor Doug Salmon.
(Full-size photo)

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The Cheney Fire Department is working to upgrade its service from basic life support to intermediate life support.

Chief Mike Winters said the department promised an increase in services when voters approved its EMS levy in 2006. With the help of Inland Northwest Health Services, the department has been holding classes for its employees and some of its volunteers since Jan. 5. The department was able to offer the classes to other jurisdictions as well, including Wellpinit and Ritzville.

He said the department is offering the classes three days a week and is videotaping them in case the firefighters are called out to an emergency during the classes. He expects that none of the firefighters will incur overtime during the training process.

The classes will take 17 weeks to complete, Winters said. Once the firefighters are certified as intermediate life support technicians and the department buys the supplies, the department should start performing these services in July.

Winters said that the difference between basic life support and intermediate life support is the ability to administer drugs to patients who need them. With basic life support, the firefighters’ main objective was to keep the patient alive until advanced life support could be administered. They could use a defibrillator to shock the patient and perform CPR or administer first aid.

With intermediate life support, the firefighters are able to insert an IV in the patient, to draw blood and administer drugs.

Winters said the firefighters have been practicing starting IVs on each other during their down time.

“You have to actually do it,” Winters said. “You can’t learn it from the books.”

Winters said that 70 to 80 percent of the department’s calls are emergency medical service calls. He said that with this change in service, his firefighters can help asthmatics and diabetics, or help save someone having a drug overdose while they wait for the ambulance to arrive.

Battalion Chief Mike Ault said he appreciates learning about the consequences of administering fluids and how the organs and systems work inside the human body. He added that there is a lot of information to learn about, but the instructor, Doug Salmon of the Spokane Valley Fire Department Training Center, goes over and over the information until it is second nature to them.

Winters said the department budgeted for these classes and the equipment and supplies it will need.


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