Aside from being trained as firefighters, all personnel are also qualified as EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) which enables them to provide basic life-support aid to victims.
In addition to EMTs, the department also has a fully qualified paramedic on duty on each shift. This person has further extensive training and is qualified to administer advanced life-support aid.
Some of the “tools” available for this purpose are highlighted here.
The trauma kit includes a variety of medical supplies to deal with trauma. It contains a wide variety of bandages, gauze, tape, surgical dressings, as well as antibiotic and wound-cleaning supplies. It also contains supplies to enable efficient triage in the case of emergencies involving many victims.
This device is used to “re-start” the hearts of certain cardiac patients via electric shock applied to the chest. This particular unit is a lightweight but advanced model that can be used in either “automatic” mode or under direct control of suitably trained personnel. It can print out a chart of wave forms to hand over to ambulance or emergency-room personnel, and in addition it records information on an internal removable memory card. After use in an emergency this card is forwarded to a central quality monitoring group for post-analysis and experiential feedback to field personnel.
This is a hard-sided case containing multiple layers of medications together with any necessary syringes etc. that might be needed to administer them. They carefully-arranged for rapid access and include everything from basic analgesics to powerful drugs used for pain-killing, cardiac or stroke victims, etc.
The drugs are checked regularly for date-expiration and are tightly monitored in terms of inventory and usage.
Besides a built-in oxygen supply, this kit carries a wide variety of devices used in situations where the victim’s ability to breath has been compromised. They range from a simple nasal cannula (plastic tube with two tips to supply oxygen into a patient’s nostrils) to external positive pressure breathing-assist devices, and more radical approaches including tracheal intubation (where an oxygen-supply tube is passed down a patient’s throat) to surgical intervention via tracheotomy.
Multiple laryngoscope tips are available in multiple sizes and shapes to enable rapid intubation. These are carefully arranged for rapid access in sizes that can accommodate anything from an infant to a large adult. These too are checked regularly to assure the fiber-optic tips and batteries are in working order.
Similarly, the positive pressure assist devices are available in multiple sizes to cater for infants as well as adults.
Auto-Pulse CPR Device
This device was invented at Stanford, and our El Monte Station was among of the first to acquire and use one. A drawback of manual CPR is that it is not uniformly applied when several people have to take it in turns to administer, and when a patient is transferred between accident scene, ambulance and hospital, the procedure is interrupted. The new device works continuously without human intervention.
At first sight it resembles a short stretcher – the patient is placed on the stretcher with his or her head near the top as being shown here by the paramedic.
Next, a wide cummerbund-like strap is placed over the patient’s upper chest and the “start” button is pressed as shown here by the paramedic. The built-in electric motors initially retract the strap to measure the patient’s chest size. From this the machine computes further settings which now allow it to rhythmically apply CPR via the strap – and continue to do so without tiring for as long as 40 minutes on a single battery charge. Spare batteries are carried in the device and these are rotated and checked for charge on a daily basis. This device saved its first life within days of its initial deployment.
While performing their daily functions at the station (checking, practicing, cleaning, continuous training) personnel wear their Station Uniform as shown above which consists of relatively light-weight but nevertheless fire-retardant clothing. However, when an emergency call comes, the firefighters will choose and don protective clothing which will vary depending on the nature of the call.
There are two basic types of protective gear – that designed for brush and wildland fires, and one designed for structure fires where for example a residence in out community is involved.
Brushfire Protective Gear
This is much lighter for the firefighter to wear than its heavier counterpart for structure fires. The lighter overall weight allows for much improved agility and endurance which can be gained because there is no need to carry around the air tanks and other protections that might otherwise be needed in a structure fire.
One extras piece of gear is however required – firefighters each carry a space-age safety protective blanket under which they can seek shelter if a wild fire should suddenly turn on them and threaten to overwhelm them. By dropping to the ground and covering themselves with this thin but reflective and insulating cover, their chances of survival are improved considerably – although never guaranteed.
Protective Gear for Structural Fires (“Bunker” Gear)
When fully suited up, this gear is much heavier and clumsy for the firefighter – the cost of the extra protection required when battling a blaze inside a structure with its increased danger of smoke, super-heated air, flashbacks, and similar risks. A firefighter can end up weighted down by an extra burden of up to 70 lbs when fully decked out to tackle such a blaze.
And it has to be donned in double-quick time when the alarm comes in – less than a minute is the target.
Accordingly, the clothing is carefully prepared and arranged on the floor next to the engine before the alarm comes in. The suspenders are already attached to the trousers, and the boots are already positioned within the trouser legs so that both can be donned in one motion.
After the trousers and boots come the jacket and the protective face hood. Next the air supply unit including oxygen tank is loaded on the back, and the mouthpiece and facemask are fitted. Finally – gloves and helmet complete the ensemble.