Pace Fire Department can save your life. In more ways that one.
They routinely kick in doors and stomp out house fires. They are always ready to jump on their truck and wrestle an out-of-control brush fire.
Pace Fire Department became licensed by the state as an Advanced Life Support (ALS) station earlier this year. With this license, fire fighters say they have the ability to provide better medical treatment as first responders to the public.
"We can perform more advanced procedures," said Lieutenant Danny Murphy. "It's very beneficial to the patients that need the advanced life support."
There are many times when the fire department is on the scene first, before an ambulance, according to Murphy. Gathering initial vitals signs is essential in first response, as it increases the chances of survival for the patient.
With the ALS license, fire fighters now have the ability to administer medication vital to survival in emergency situations and defibrillate cardiac victims when necessary. They are utilizing a small, portable machine called the "Lifepak 10," to take vital readings and determine the best course of medical action on the spot. The machine has electrodes that attach to the victim and it reads and records the heart rhythm.
"Doctors go by what we see in the field, because the patient can change so quickly," Murphy said. "Sometimes, it changes in a matter of minutes. It's a difference of night and day."
Recording those rapid changes in a victim's health can be beneficial to treating the patient in the field, on the ambulance and at the hospital. Murphy says the ALS will be beneficial in cardiac situations, strokes, allergic reactions and diabetic cases. Information from the first response is then given to the ambulance paramedics for further care.
"The transition is seamless," Murphy said. "We're aiming for a continuance of care while they transport to the hospital."
The ALS license allows fire fighters to step in with their knowledge and training, and take action to stabilize victims before the situation takes a turn for the worse. With BLS, fire fighters say they were limited to giving Oxygen, taking vital signs and administer CPR in serious cases.
"We don't have to wait until things get worse to respond and administer CPR," said fire fighter Jason Morris. "I can actually use my training as a paramedic."
In addition to helping the public, the fire fighters say they can better help each other, if an emergency situation threatens the fire fighters.
"If one of us goes down, we can help them immediately," Morris said. "We can be self-sufficient."
The department requires certain certifications and training to become a fire fighter. Two of the career fire fighters have advanced training as paramedics as well as three of the volunteer fire fighters. All six of the career fire fighters are certified EMTs.
The ALS response ultimately falls under the scrutiny of Medical Director Dr. Kim Landry. Landry ensures that procedures are being properly adhered to and directions are being followed.
"He's there for us twenty-four seven," Morris said. "He's there to offer his medical advice, because he's been there and knows what to do with patients. He's got the authority to give orders on the phone and expand our capabilities. He's very proactive."
According to Battalion Chief, Randy Morris, the station went through a six-month process to attain the license. The station worked closely with Lifeguard Ambulance Service, who holds a contract with the county. The Board of County Commissioners had to sign off on the license before Pace Fire Department could start responding with ALS procedures.
Pace Fire Department invested $1,200 for the two-year license. They were issued two tags, one for each cardiac monitor, which is assigned to a specific vehicle. One is carried on a large tanker and the other is carried on the Battalion Chief's truck.
"We are first Municipal Services Benefit Unit in Santa Rosa County to get the certification," Murphy said. "We're kind of raising the bar. We're paving the way, so to speak."