Firefighters’ medical crash course

Wednesday August 21, 2019 Written by Published in Crime
Puaikura first responders doing scenarios for their Pre-Hospital Emergency Care assessments. 19082041 Puaikura first responders doing scenarios for their Pre-Hospital Emergency Care assessments. 19082041

Puaikura volunteer fire brigade member Trish Barton was at home in the middle of the night earlier this year, when she heard a crash – right outside her house.

 

It was a motorcyclist who had come off his bike. She sent an alert through her Active 911 app, and three other first responders came to her assistance within minutes.

They performed CPR on this patient until the ambulance arrived. Sadly the outcome for this patient was not favourable – but another motorcyclist was luckier at the weekend.

Puaikura firefighters were on their way to training on Saturday morning and were able to treat the critically injured young man, until the ambulance arrived.

Extraordinarily, five of those same firefighters had been out until 1.40am dousing a major house fire in Vaimaanga.

That’s just what they do, says station officer Tarina Moorfield. “As a firefighter, you are trained to deal with emergency situations and switching from a fire emergency to a medical emergency is not usual for us.

“We have been trained to manage stressful situations and this training is put to the test every incident.”

That’s why they are looking forward to having a closer working relationship with the Ministry of Health and being active participants in this first responder network.

Until now, the ambulance has generally been the first to be called up when there’s a car crash – but sometimes, the trained paramedics from the fire brigade may be closer.

Dr Yin Yin May, the director of hospital health services, says the Ministry of Health is now considering the use of the fire volunteers as first responders for road accidents.

Nine Puaikura Fire Brigade members qualified this year in Pre-Hospital Emergency Care and are keen to formalise an agreement to help out. They are trained to perform CPR, use a defibrillator and more, while waiting for ambulance and paramedics to arrive at the scene.

And Moorfield says it’s not just the Puaikura brigade that can help, but also members of Teimurimotia brigade.

It’s becoming a regular occurrence: in June, visiting New Zealand firefighter Matt Alphors was first on the scene of a serious crash involving two men on a motorcycle by the airport seawall.

The volunteer fire fighters argue that they are all over the island and with their support, emergency services can respond more quickly.

President of the Road Safety Council Brent Fisher endorses the move. “It’s a great idea.”

Firefighters have the manpower and tools to move things and help people escape their vehicles fast, he explains.

Moorfield agrees: “The Puaikura Volunteer firefighters come from extensive firefighting backgrounds. Many have been involved in the fire service for more than 10 years,” she says.

“The prospect of co-responding with ambulance staff to medical emergencies has been a welcomed addition to their passion for serving the community.”

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