Fire-EMS hard at work even on slow days

By Jeni Payne
Arkansas City Traveler – May 19, 2015

Photo by Jeni Payne.

Photo by Jeni Payne.

The Arkansas City Fire-EMS Department can be one of the quietest buildings in town. It is not uncommon for the sound of birds chirping to be the loudest noise in the facility.

As an outsider looking in, it is easy to assume that those on shift sit around waiting for a call to come over the radio, requesting services.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Because their jobs require ongoing training, firefighters and paramedics actively participate in training from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Training sessions could cover anything from new CPR standards and running drills to practicing rescue skills that require smoke machines, ladders and mannequins.

There are days in which paramedics make as many as three patient transfers — each round trip takes approximately 2 1/2 hours.

The staff works 24-hour shifts, which are rotated through three teams — A shift, B shift and C shift.

“Maintaining a high level of readiness is tiring. Tasks that are challenging at 4 in the afternoon can be grueling at 4 in the morning,” said EMS Director Jeri Smith.

ACFD as a whole, boasts 282 years of Emergency Medical Service experience.

Of those years, 72 belong to Fire-EMS Chief Bobby Wolfe and Smith.

In addition to answering emergency calls, the staff is required to help with tasks such as vehicle maintenance, firehouse maintenance and training outside agencies in CPR.

The paramedics also work on small projects, such as a recent bunkhouse remodel.

The last several times the firehouse has been painted, it has been done by the staff.

“Everyone brings additional skills into the building — we have certified emergency vehicle technicians, welders and, I think, a carpenter,” Smith said.

If there is a piece of equipment that is not functioning properly, the firefighters work on it until it is fixed.

The Arkansas City Fire-EMS department is nearly 100 percent firefighter-paramedics — there are only four Emergency Medical Technicians, or EMTs.

There also are three reserve firefighter-EMTs, two reserve firefighters and a reserve EMT.

An EMT is a person who is trained and certified to assess patients, and begin emergency care for the patient before or during transportation of a patient to a medical facility.

EMTs also can assist with securing airways, emergency child birth and splinting.

A paramedic level of training is the highest level for the EMS profession.

Their jobs includes specialty training to provide a wide range of emergency services, including injections, defibrillation and securing airways in the field.

“Inside this department is a family of specially trained people who work, train and prepare,” Smith said.

“The calls come at any time, with any intensity and in any number. There is no order in which the calls come. And everyone who calls has one thing in common — they need help from our department.”

The emergency responder’s primary concern in responding to a call is for the patient. However, they must also be able to calm those who are on scene, in order to attend to their jobs.

In some cases, it is necessary to calm the patients themselves, whether they are panicking or angry. Focusing a patient’s mind to their physical condition helps the responder to obtain an accurate picture of their physical condition.

“The calls that we respond to can be for anything from a sprained ankle to a grass fire or a car crash. When responding, we don’t know if we will find people screaming, grandma’s gasping for breath, people with colds or people who are dying,” Smith said.

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