Fire department upgrades life-support technology

By on October 30, 2009

Ambulance now has cardiac monitor
by Martha Quetsch
MAPLE PARK—The Maple Park Fire Department’s latest improvement is the addition of advanced life support (ALS) technology to one of its two ambulances.

Until recently, the department’s vehicles, including the ambulances, a rescue squad car and a fire engine, were only equipped with basic life support equipment, including an automated extended defibrillator.
[quote] “The biggest difference is, we’ll be carrying an actual cardiac monitor, along with (ALS) medications and IV’s,” Assistant Fire Chief Rod Johnson said. “We have a lot more equipment to deal with medical emergencies. Basically, we’re providing the highest level of care in the field.”

The defibrillator only indicates whether a medical technician should apply shock or not in cases of possible heart failure, Johnson said. A cardiac monitor, however, provides more specific information to enhance lifesaving procedures.

“If you have a lethal (heart) rhythm, with the monitor, we can detect and treat it,” Maple Park Paramedic Ted Peterson said.

Previously, if the Fire Department responded to a call that required advanced life support, it would have to call the Elburn or Sycamore fire departments to bring their ALS-equipped ambulance to the scene, Johnson said.

The Maple Park Fire Department was able to purchase the new ALS equipment through funding approved by voters in a 2004 referendum for improvements, including hiring paramedics. Now, the department has 11 part-time paramedics who are qualified to use the ALS equipment.

With the additional staff and the increasing number of calls for service and mutual aid, it was time for the department to upgrade to the higher level of life-support service, Johnson said.

The ALS-equipped ambulance will have three department employees on board for every call: the driver, a paramedic and an emergency medical technician.

Photo: Maple Park Fire Department Paramedic Ted Peterson, (right), instructed Mel Needham (center) in the use of the department’s new cardiac monitor. Needham, an emergency medical technician with the department, learned how to attach monitors to a patient and assess his heart rhythms using the equipment. During the training exercise, Fire Chief Kevin Peterson served as the patient. Photo by Martha Quetsch