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“…dedicated to the best possible response to all emergency calls in the city of Clarksville. We strive to provide top-flight customer service to all aspects of our mission through our fire suppression activities, medical assist responses, daily and annual training, fire prevention inspections and public fire education programs, fire investigations, safety practices, and vehicle maintenance procedures.”
— Clarksville Fire Rescue
Debra had allergies. To everything. The list of foods she could eat was a single page. Two brief columns of edibles that would not kill her. She carried a stash of epi-pens — in the kitchen, in the bedroom, in the car. Her reactions happened fast. Shortness of breath, then unconsciousness. On one hair-rising night, a night when I just stopped by for a moment and found her door open, her beloved house cats loose in the hall and her body on the floor gasping for air, though I didn’t know she was a step away from death. I jabbed her with an epi-pen even as I dialed 9-1-1, which dispatched a crew from a point just a minute away. Four days later Debra was released from the hospital, until her next crisis. According to reports, her conditions were “allergic reaction” and “shortness of breath.” According to the Emergency Room doctors, she was lucky to have survived at all.
Who says shortness of breath or an allergic reaction are not a medical emergency worthy of the fastest response, including response by Clarksville Fire and Rescue? Or that it can wait for a county service to respond? The rapid response of a neighborhood fire and rescue team saved Debra’s life more than once.
Strokes can paralyze, kill, and result in brain damage; early response to and treatment for stroke is critical. Minutes make a difference.
Chest pain, shortness of breath and even what seems like indigestion can also be the symptoms of a killing heart attack; there are no hard and fast rules on how long it takes for the symptoms to manifest full scale cardiac arrest.
Where does a diabetic crisis fit into these new parameters?
The Clarksville Fire Rescue mission statement includes the words “all emergency calls” and the words “medical assist.”
Although Clarksville Fire and Rescue has ten locations across the city and has been considered the first line of contact in an emergency, new rules will now prohibit CFR from responding to calls for difficulty breathing, chest pain, asthma attacks, strokes, allergic reactions, and overdoses. Instead, those calls will be responded to by Montgomery County Emergency Medical Service stations, which has nine locations and are now the designated responders for “medical calls.” Some EMS stations actually share facilities with CFR. And CFR will still respond to cardiac arrest, amputations, choking, childbirth/complication, chest trauma, and heatstroke.
If your heart has stopped you get CFR; if it’s still beating you wait for EMS. If you are choking you get CFR; if you are having trouble breathing you wait for EMS. Either way you’re in big trouble, either way you may suffer devastating consequences, all because of definitions. It’s a line item veto for emergency health care.
Because of the EMS “medical response” designation, CFR will not automatically answer calls for issues such as breathing difficulty, asthma attacks, allergic reactions, chest pain, stroke and overdoses, despite the fact that all of these conditions can quickly become life threatening.
Tell that to someone whose non-critical condition turns catastrophic. That can and does happen in an instant. It makes sense that, in the interest of public safety, the nearest available trained crews should respond. It is a matter of life and death. Do you want to wait for EMS when CFR is around the corner? Is CFR needed if EMS is two blocks away?
Montgomery County EMS is currently building a new base close to the new Gateway Medical Center, a move calculated to better serve the burgeoning population in that part of the city, as well as the county-wide services they provide. That’s fine, and we applaud the services all CFR and EMS staff provide; they are the front lines in crisis response.
But Clarksville itself is huge, and its citizens, regardless of which district of the city they reside in, regardless of their step on the economic ladder, deserve the best and the FASTEST response to any medical emergency that arises, whether it is from CFR or EMS. Of the 6500 calls CFR responded to last year, 3100 were medical calls. How many of those call would now shift to EMS?
To do less is a disservice to the people of this city.
Clarksville Fire Rescue
199 people assigned to ten bases around the city:
Montgomery County EMS
110 people at nine bases around the city:
TopicsClarksville Fire Rescue, Montgomery County EMS, new rules for emergency response
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