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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Station Life: Firetrucks and Ambulances

This week’s Station Life Ponders: Why did a fire truck show up when I called 911 for an ambulance?


Why are you here, I called for an ambulance!  We hear it all the time.  So why DID a fire truck come to your house when you called 911 for a medical emergency?  After all, you’re sick or injured—not on fire!

The answer is very simple—to provide better service.  There are two ambulances stationed in the City of Brentwood. One is located at Fire Station 1 on Maryland Way, and the second is located at Station 4 on Sunset Road. These ambulances are operated by Williamson Medical Center and are part of an ambulance service network that provides medical responses for all of Williamson County. What this means is that while these ambulances are usually nearby and able to respond to a medical emergency in Brentwood, they may also be required to respond elsewhere in the county when needed. Or, sometimes these ambulances are not available for another call because they are still transporting someone to the hospital.  In any case, a fire engine is normally as close, or closer, to the location of the emergency. Because of this, it is the policy of Brentwood Fire and Rescue to send a fire engine on any medical call in the city so the patient can be cared for immeditely.

But don’t think that the care provided by firefighters is any less than that of an ambulance crew. Brentwood Fire and Rescue has what are known as ALS (Advanced Life Support) Fire Engines. This means that the crews that staff them are cross trained as Paramedics and EMT’s; the two highest levels of first responders in the state of Tennessee. Brentwood’s fire apparatus carry many of the same supplies as an ambulance and the crews are trained to the same standards of care. In fact, Brentwood firefighters operate under the medical protocols of Williamson Medical Center. One of the biggest differences between the ambulance and the fire truck is that the fire truck is not set up to transport a sick or injured person to the hospital.

An inside look at an ambulance. Pictured in the foreground is the stretcher, which mounts to the floor during transport of a patient, and the ambulance crew’s jump kit, which contains supplies they may need on a call.
Additionally, sometimes a patient may be located up stairs, on a park trail, in a wrecked vehicle or in any number of precarious situations. At times like these the crews of both the ambulance and fire truck work together to quickly and safely remove the patient to the ambulance for transport to the hospital. If a person is particularly sick or injured, having additional trained personnel to aid in their care can mean the difference between life and death. Brentwood Fire often trains with Williamson County ambulance crews and enjoys a great working relationship with them, which allows for a very high standard of care to be provided to the citizens of Brentwood.

From left to right, an oxygen bag, ALS bag and defibrillator

Brentwood firefighters are able to handle a wide variety of medical emergencies. Shown below are just some of the items carried on every medical call. Firefighters can defibrillate, or shock, a person having a heart attack, start an IV, provide oxygen, manage an unconscious patient’s airway and provide a wide range of care for anything from a bump or bruise to broken bones and burns. ALS fire engines also carry a variety of medications. A few uses for the medications carried on the fire engine include treatment of a diabetic with low blood sugar, someone who has overdosed on drugs, a patient in cardiac arrest or a person who is having an allergic reaction. Because of their training and equipment, firefighters and ambulance crews are able to handle just about any emergency they come across.

Don’t be surprised to see a fire engine the next time someone you know dials 911 for a medical emergency, it’s just the medical professionals of Brentwood Fire and Rescue responding alongside Williamson County EMS.