Pincher Creek Emergency Services developed a firefighter rehabilitation program, a leading practice for the safety of our firefighters. The program was developed approximately six years ago and filled the need to keep our firefighters safe. According to the National Fire Protection Association the leading cause of death for firefighters is overexertion/stress/medical emergency (NFPA’s “Firefighter Fatalities in the United States-2014”).
The program centers around all active emergency fire scenes; grass fire, vehicle fire, structure fire, motor vehicle collisions, as well as other unspecified fire events. Ambulance crews are available to provide medical assessments and determine if firefighters are safe to return to active fire operations. At predetermined times, individual firefighters go through a medical assessment by a trained medical personnel (Paramedic, EMT-A’s). During the assessment, vital signs are taken, individual medical complaints are addressed, fluids and snack are replenished and needed rest is provided. The medical personnel determine if the firefighter, based on specific criteria, is able to safely return to active duty. The medical staff determines whether a firefighter’s vital signs are in a dangerous range and provide adequate treatment to prevent the firefighter from experiencing a medical emergency.
Medical staff completes a firefighter rehabilitation form which tracks vital signs, number of self-contained breathing apparatus bottles used, firefighter fluid intake, medical treatments performed, and whether the firefighter has returned to active work duty. These forms are completed each time a firefighter is assessed and are kept with the patient care records and fire reports. Subsequent assessments of the same firefighters are included on the same assessment form for trending.
Pincher Creek Fire Brigade and Pincher Creek Emergency Medical Services have adopted this program knowing that safety is paramount to all staff members. Management supports the program by providing, when necessary, financial support and enforcement. Since the program has been implemented, there has been one specific instance where a firefighter was unable to return to active duty as they did not meet return to duty criteria, thus potentially preventing a medical emergency and further stressing the limited resources at a scene. Medical treatment has also been provided, on two separate occasions, to firefighters during active duty. The program is constantly evolving, based on input from both EMS and fire personnel. As further experiences arise and future needs are determined the program will continue to grow.
Title: Accreditation Coordinator/Deputy Chief Emergency Services Ambulance
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