Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why does a big fire truck go on medical calls?

This is a question that I get asked a lot. You can see from the photo above, and if you do a Google search of "fire trucks, engines, paramedics. etc.," the norm is that firefighters use fire engines and ladder trucks to deliver emergency medical services. The photo above is featured on this website.

Why is this the norm?

Quite simply, firefighters have to be prepared, no matter where they are, no matter what they may be doing - building surveys, fireworks patrol, training, etc.  - to respond to any type of emergency. These emergencies include house fires, heart attacks, auto accidents, hazmats, garage fires, strokes, entrapments, car fires, deaths, apartment fires, stabbings, heroin overdoses, people getting run over, shootings, etc.

So, firefighters take the fire engine or ladder truck with the pump, the hoses, the ladders, the nozzles, the breathing apparatus, the cutting tools, the axes, the chainsaws, the defibrillator, the medications, the oxygen, and the all their protective gear with them wherever they go.

If a fire call comes in and they are on a medical call and the patient is OK, or the ambulance shows up, if they are returning to the station from a medical call, if they are on their way to a medical call and they see smoke billowing out of a home, if they are picking up medical supplies from the hospital, they can respond immediately because they are already with, or in, a fire engine or ladder truck. Likewise, if they are at a fire, because they have medical gear on their fire apparatus, they can perform emergency medical services for a fire victim immediately.

All of this saves time. Time is the enemy for firefighters - whether they are in their EMT role helping a stroke or heart attack patient or whether they are acting in their fire suppression role in the early stages of an exponentially expanding apartment fire.

If you have a scanner and were listening to the recent Lincoln Terrace apartment fire, you would have heard fire companies, from all across the city, clear from the medical calls they were on ASAP and proceed directly to the fire. They didn't have to drive back to the station and get "the big fire truck." Today, you can walk by the scene of this fire on 7th and Lincoln, and see what could have happened, if the response had not been timely. With homes and apartments, uphill and right against the apartment complex, the fire would have spread quickly and pretty far into the neighborhood.

To me, and probably to you, this concept seems like a simple thing to explain to others.

If you ever get asked why firefighters take the big trucks on medical emergencies by a friend or neighbor, would you please let them know? Thanks!


Traditional Bike Club Curmudgeon said...

I am not a fire fighter, yet have given exactly this explanation to people at least 100 times.

They always seem just a bit surprised by "all the team needs to be together" and "we need all of our stuff with us".

It always makes sense to them, but I am amazed that they haven't figured it out on their own.

EvilElf said...

Thanks for spreading the word. I think that a lot of this confusion comes from downgrading citizens into customers.

"Hey, fireman, you should stop taking big trucks on medical calls."

"Hey, customer, that is a great idea!"


"Hey, citizen, here's why we don't and its for your benefit..."