Okla. Fire Department Adds Advanced Paramedics
Nov. 17-- The Tulsa Fire Department expanded its medical capabilities this week by adding three advanced life support units to its stations.
The teams of paramedics are qualified to perform life-saving procedures that other basic life support companies can't. With the three additional stations equipped with the advanced paramedics, more than half of the fire stations in Tulsa now have advanced life support companies.
"The citizens of this community can rest assured they have one of the best EMS systems in the nation," said Michael Baker, director of emergency medical services for the Tulsa Fire Department.
The advanced units have the necessary equipment and training to perform several lifesaving actions related to cardiac episodes, respiratory problems, strokes and traumatic injuries, whereas other firefighter EMTs might not be able to be as in-depth.
Speed and technical expertise are the goal of the program, Baker said. A patient will have a better chance for survival if the first responder has the knowledge to correctly assess major problems and "if we can identify those quickly, which is what a paramedic brings with a certain level of expertise to the scene," Baker said.
The three advanced companies started Wednesday at Station 21, 4606 E. 31st St.; Station 19, 509 E. 56th Place North; and Station 21, 11707 E. 31st St.
The stations were chosen by analyzing the types of medical calls in each of the stations and placing the advanced units where there are more medical calls of a certain type.
"When we looked at all those demographics and all of those response types in all of the apparatus within the city of Tulsa that were at basic EMT level, the three that we chose came out at the highest rankings of having the most of those types of calls," Baker said.
The department was able to add the units because of better-trained firefighters as well, Baker said. More fully trained paramedics have applied to and graduated from the department's academy.
Having those additional firefighters applying who are already trained as paramedics not only makes the process more competitive, but also encourages the expansion of the advanced life support companies to make sure the paramedics are fully utilized, Baker said.
"We didn't just openly go out and advertise for paramedics, but these folks have come and chosen to work for the fire department and we have brought them on board over the last several academies," Baker said. "Additionally, we have had incumbent firefighters who chose to become paramedics on their own."
With the personnel in place, the department then sought to acquire top-of-the-line equipment. But budgets have not been greatly affected by the advanced life support companies, he said.
"We have acquired the equipment over the last few years and we've been ready for this moment," Baker said. Various grants have also helped keep budgetary constraints down.
The department is adding new advanced life support capabilities as the community's needs require, but Tulsa Fire Chief Ray Driskell said he would like to see the program continue to expand.
"If we could get engine apparatus up to ALS, I think that's what's best for the citizens to have that resource there," Driskell said.
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
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