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Fort Walton Beach Improves EMS Service Capabilities

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  • Fort Walton Beach Improves EMS Service Capabilities

    Paramedics climb aboard firetrucks

    Addition of advanced life support personnel to fire rescue team a success on inaugural day of program.

    By TOM McLAUGHLIN Daily News Staff Writer
    At 9:20 a.m. Monday, a truck crew from the Fort Walton Beach Fire Department responded to an emergency call, then performed a 12-lead electrocardiogram to determine whether a city resident was having a heart attack.

    The rescue effort was historic. With it the Fort Walton Beach Fire Department stepped into the realm of advanced life support.

    The morning rescue was the first time paramedics riding with a truck crew were called upon to do something — run the EKG — that most first responder firefighters aren’t allowed to do.

    As of Monday, the department became the first in Okaloosa County to deploy a paramedic with each truck it sends out.

    "We’re kind of plowing new ground as far as the fire departments go in Okaloosa County," said Battalion Chief Robert Bullard.

    Having a paramedic on board the trucks allows the Fire Department to have someone who can provide advanced life support on the scene of a call faster than an ambulance can be there, Bullard said.

    "Depending on where the ambulances are, we’re on scene on average about four minutes quicker, and when the county gets slammed sometimes we wait 10 minutes for an ambulance," Bullard said. "That’s a long time if you’re the one in cardiac arrest."

    Advanced life support would include such things as running IVs or dispensing pills that limit a heart attack’s damage.

    Fort Walton Beach now employs six paramedics on its firefighting staff and two more department employees are scheduled to graduate in a couple of months, Bullard said.

    After a couple weeks of "trying to get the bugs out," Bullard said the department began its transition to advanced life support Monday at 7 a.m.

    He reported at mid-afternoon that everything was going smoothly.

    Okaloosa County Emergency Management Service officials applauded the Fort Walton Beach move, calling it "an asset."

    "It can be helpful if they get on a scene prior to our arriving, which they do because we are busier," said Al Herndon, chief of EMS for the county. "They’re an extension of EMS, like adding paramedics to our own staff."

    The Fort Walton Beach department’s trucks could also be called upon in mutual aid calls if county units are in service elsewhere, Herndon said.

    Staff Writer Tom McLaughlin can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 435, or [email protected]

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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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