The Power of One…
When Northshore attempted a ballot measure last year, one of the objectives then and is still a goal, is to staff the Northshore Fire Station in Upper Lake with someone 24/7. Over the last year, that station has been staffed Monday – Friday from 8am to 5pm. But this is not the only staffing needs that the District has, as one of the objectives for Measure N, it will be necessary for the Northshore Fire District to be able to hire and retain firefighters. This objective can be met in a variety of ways. Any good staffing strategy should include outreach into several avenues of recruitment, an environment of professional standards and with competitive wages and if possible, incentives for performance or training, and the opportunity for building unique expertise, leadership skills, and advancement.
Many have put forth the questions: “One person? What can one person do?”
So, I thought that this would be an excellent question to explore and since I am not a first responder, I asked for assistance and expertise from a couple of members of the Northshore Fire District team: Battalion Chief, Dave Emmel and Firefighter/EMT, Ron Valadez. Their collective experience not only answers this question in depth but provided a great deal of insight into just how much firefighters and emergency personnel can do when approaching and establishing a scene.
First of all, one firefighter can do a lot more than most people think. They have the ability to collect as much information as possible for the incoming crews. With Fire Calls, the single first responder can determine whether or not the full response of the dispatch is needed. This is huge and crucial in a district that has limited resources, as it allows extra units to be cancelled freeing up emergency units and crews sooner to respond to other calls. Of course, on the flip side it can also allow for a request for more units and crews so that they get rolling to the scene quicker.
With medical calls, any Northshore Fire Responder can immediately begin life-saving procedures such as CPR. If it is a fall, they may be able to lift them. If it is not that critical, they can begin to acquire vitals of the patient and again cancel the medic unit responding which keeps those resources available. Essentially, having one person in the Northshore Station @ Upper Lake on a 24/7 shift gives the surrounding communities the peace of mind that someone with training is at their emergency sooner than they would arrive when the station is unstaffed. Every second counts and the sooner someone arrives to the scene the better, even if it is only one person.
Let’s break this down a bit more – besides what one first responder can do, what do they do when they are first on scene?
Well, when one firefighter is the first on scene of a fire, they will always size up the scene, and can affect a quick rescue of any occupants. Probably, the most important thing that needs to be done at a scene! Next the responder will establish a water supply, secure utilities, and quickly get water on the fire from the outside to keep the fire in check until more resources arrive. And finally, if still alone on the scene, the responder must establish command of the scene and order appropriate resources, if necessary.
But what if it is a medical call? Well, the good news is that the minimum hiring qualification at Northshore is a Firefighter/EMT, which means they are skilled up on BLS, or Basic Life Saving fundamentals. So, when a firefighter/EMT arrives as the first and only one on scene, they will immediately conduct a patient assessment, and if necessary, quickly begin CPR and/or administer emergency oxygen. Time is very important when an unconscious person is not breathing, in fact permanent brain damage begins after only 4 minutes without oxygen. This first responder can secure airways and start rescue breathing and start early defibrillation, but many medical calls are not this critical and with the ability to conduct all basic life support functions, they can administer Epinephrine for allergic reactions, control bleeding if there are cuts and lacerations, and handle a number of other types of medical situations.
Northshore Fire is capable of BLS and ALS response. Advanced Life Support (ALS) functions are possible when a paramedic is on scene and if they are the first to arrive, they can do all of the things that a Firefighter/EMT can do, which is all the life-saving skills, as well as, they can complete a more advanced assessment of the patient, begin cardiac monitoring, conduct IV therapy, and administer medication.
The power of one…first responder can save a life. What we need to do as citizens is to make sure that the Northshore Fire Protection District is equipped and funded to meet their objectives of Measure N. This will provide us more “ones” (Firefighters/EMTs and Paramedics) that will respond when needed. We want to make sure that Northshore Fire can hire and retain staffing and that they have the necessary training, appropriately compensated and provided opportunities here. Vote Yes on Measure N to support Northshore Fire and keep them serving our communities.