The Purdy Fire District recently attained certification as an Emergency Medical Response Agency in an effort to better serve the community as Advanced Life Support (ALS) providers.
For District Fire Chief Mike Redshaw and those serving with him, this is very exciting and welcome news.
"As things were, we were very limited in what we could do for those having a medical emergency," explains Redshaw. "All we could do was administer oxygen, take vital signs and perform CPR. Now we can do anything about anything an ambulance crew can."
As certified members of an EMRA, fire district personnel are allowed to perform advanced lifesaving skills, which involve both invasive and non-invasive procedures.
"We can now utilize cardiac monitors, start IVs, give medications, intubate patients that need advanced airway support and much, much more," said Redshaw.
In order to become an EMRA, the district had to apply with the Missouri Bureau of EMS. Once the application was approved, the regional office then had to perform an inspection of the district's facilities and equipment in order to issue the certification.
According to Redshaw, this was a long and complicated process with many obstacles to overcome.
"The process started about a year and a half ago, and we ran into several stumbling blocks along the way," Redshaw said. "The biggest problem we faced was finding a qualified medical director. As it turns out, we will be using the same doctor as the Barry-Lawrence EMS uses and, as a result, the guidelines and protocols will be very similar to theirs and will integrate together nicely."
Redshaw and his crew also had to prove that they could provide adequate response to an emergency in a timely manner while following medical guidelines and properly documenting all EMS calls.
The Purdy Fire District is currently the only district in Barry County to have earned this status.
"With the nearest ambulance being in Monett, it takes several minutes (approximately seven) for them to respond to Purdy, which could lead to irreversible damage for a cardiac patient, someone with severe respiratory problems or who have severe trauma," said Redshaw.
"Now that we have our certification, our ALS personnel, who live within a mile of any location in the city, can arrive ahead of the ambulance and decrease the amount of time a patient receives assistance after the onset of an emergency," Redshaw said.
Last year, the district responded to 126 medical calls, 74 of which met criteria for ALS response, along with a total of 49 people suffering injuries from motor vehicle collisions.
"Any of those people could have benefited from an advanced level of care between the time we arrived and the time the ambulance got there," said Redshaw, "Fortunately, we've had very few incidents, if any, where there was a detrimental impact to the patient's outcome, but we are trying to prevent that from ever happening."
Although there are members of the district who are not certified to provide ALS care, there will still be a significant portion of the crew available to assist those in need of immediate attention.
In all, the district has a total of 25 firefighters, four of which are ALS providers, including three paramedics and one RN.
Additionally, one member is currently training to be a paramedic, nine others have completed EMT courses and two members are taking EMT courses. There are also several younger members who are looking into careers in fire fighting and EMS support.
"Our goal is to provide the best service available to those who call us for assistance," said Redshaw. "We're fortunate enough to have several people who are trained to the paramedic/RN level for their careers, it seems like such a waste not to utilize that training."