Guardian angels always on call

Posted 7/10/19
Whether it is a routine call to help transfer a patient from a car inside a home, or an emergency call where every second matters, the emergency medical services personnel in Jefferson County are ready to go at the drop of a hat.

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Guardian angels always on call

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Whether it is a routine call to help transfer a patient from a car inside a home, or an emergency call where every second matters, the emergency medical services personnel in Jefferson County are ready to go at the drop of a hat. “For all of us in emergency services we are sacrificing time with our families, we miss holidays because we work 24/7, 365,” said JeffCom 911 Director Karl Hatton. “It doesn’t matter if it is Christmas or my kid’s birthday. We are typically doing the work on those days.” Dispatchers, law enforcement and medical personnel often work mandatory overtime to keep the community safe, Hatton said. And, those working in public safety encounter many traumatic situations the average citizen would not see on a day to day basis. “We do see things and hear things the normal public would never be exposed to and we are expected to make really fast decisions with no mistakes and sometimes that is challenging.” While the stress is intense, and the psychological toll real, it is worth it every time they can make a difference, Hatton said. “I have no complaints. It has been a great career for me.” It takes a person who believes and demonstrates the characteristics, traits and attributes of compassion, service above self, humility, empathy and servancy to excel in public safety, said East Jefferson Fire Rescue Fire Chief Jim Walkowski. “EMS providers witness and experience the best and worst of human life and conditions negatively impacting one’s ability to support life. Often, providers do not seek recognition for their efforts of providing service to the community, and positively impacting the lives of others is often the only ‘honor’ necessary. Having a dedicated time frame to recognize providers is humbling and appreciated.” Although National EMS Appreciation Week fell this year in May, it is important to recognize the sacrifices made by those who ensure public safety year round, Hatton said. “I do think that is important to recognize there is a certain set of people who have the skills and the mental ability as well as physical ability to deal with this type of thing day in and day out and are willing to put themselves in danger.” Calls for service There is no doubt emergency personnel respond to potentially life-threatening situations. However, the majority of calls for service in Jefferson County are for basic life support. The elderly population in Jefferson County, the largest per capita in the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, may be a contributing factor to the large volume of BLS calls, Hatton said. “Certainly that contributes to having a high volume of calls just because we have a lot of ground-level falls or lift assists.” A lift assist consists of moving a person without mobility from a vehicle into a home, or from a chair and into a bed, for example, Hatton said. “We end up responding to a lot of those.” A major hub for BLS calls in District 1 is Avamere and San Juan Commons, said Emily Stewart, East Jefferson Fire Rescue administrative assistant. “There are a lot of calls are for general weakness, fall patients, stuff like that.” According to data provided by JeffCom, medical personnel responded to 1,425 basic life support calls during the first half of 2019 and 426 advanced life support calls during that same period. The heaviest traffic continues to be in Fire District 1, which includes Port Townsend. During the first half of 2019, District 1 personnel responded to 1,017 basic life support calls and 322 advanced life support calls. “The number of BLS versus ALS calls is based on the severity of illness/injury of the specific call,” Walkowski said. “The quantity/ratio of BLS versus ALS calls has been historically 60 to 70% BLS and 30 to 40% ALS. This ratio is fairly commonplace in the fire and EMS services.” Basic life support is a type of care first responders, healthcare providers and public safety professionals provide to anyone who is experiencing cardiac arrest, respiratory distress or an obstructed airway, according to the Red Cross. BLS requires knowledge and skills in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, using automated external defibrillators and relieving airway obstructions in patients of every age. In Jefferson County, EMTs must have a minimum of 120 hours of instruction to be certified for BLS, Hatton said. There are about 13 paramedics serving in District one, Stewart said. “They do a lot of evaluations. There are a lot of times they are the first on scene.” Most medical calls don’t require advanced life support, Hatton said. “That is why we consider them BLS. In other words, medics are required for pain management, delivering medications, doing more involved airways. Most of our calls don’t require that level of response.” Advanced life support builds upon the foundation of BLS training, according to the Red Cross, and consists of how to best manage respiratory emergencies, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, protocols for acute arrhythmias, cardiac arrest and post-cardiac arrest care, acute coronary syndromes and acute stroke within or outside of a medical facility setting. Responding to so many BLS calls does not generally take away valuable time from more serious calls, Walkowski said. “We deploy resources based on the severity of the call and/or probability of life threatening injury. An ALS call often requires more resources than a BLS call, so deployment of resources are matched accordingly.” There are times when many or all of the units are on BLS calls when an ALS call is received, Walkowski said. “This sometimes necessitates resources from other fire service partners to respond via automatic and mutual aid.”

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