“When the rescuer needs to be rescued”
July 3, 2015
On your hands and knees, crawling over melting legos, falling pieces of ceiling, burned remnants of carpet, running your gloved hand against the wall to your right to make sure you don’t get lost in the maze of black acrid smoke so thick it seems like you should be able to grab handfuls of it and stuff it in your pockets next to your flashlight. The heat compresses all around you like an invisible blanket holding you closer to the floor. You just barely make out the twisted swollen hoseline snaked around the hallway corner in front of you.
Radio traffic crackles in your ear, barely legible against the roar of the fierce beast tearing through the walls, across the ceiling, hungry for more air to feed it’s growing appetite. Suddenly time stops as the voice rings out “Mayday, Firefighter Down”
Sudden cardiac death accounts for 56% of Firefighter Deaths according to Firefighter Fatalities in the United States, Rita F. Fahy, Paul R. LeBlanc, Joseph L. Molis, NFPA, June 2015 and previous reports in the series. On the fireground, when that Mayday call goes out, the world seems to stand still. The first priority immediately shifts to finding the brother or sister trapped inside. But, how effective are responders at extricating one of their own from the fire and immediately implementing life saving measures to the same extent as done for the citizens served? With the level of protective equipment that firefighters wear on every fire call, increasing the safety inside the IDLH environment, how long does it delay CPR when a sentinel event occurs?
Leland Fire/Rescue created a program called “Firefighter Down: Special Considerations for the Resuscitation of the Downed Firefighter”. Cascade Healthcare Services Pre-Hospital Education & Evaluation Readiness Solutions (PEERS) Program started bringing this information to Fire Departments in 2015 including the Novato Fire Department and the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department. The training session includes a didactic presentation covering Cardiac Health of Firefighters as well as the effect that fireground stress has on the body. The session is followed up with a hands on drill showing first responders how to save one of their own by effectively starting CPR while the downed firefighter is still in full PPE including turnouts with SCBA on air. The nature of firefighter turnout gear makes effective compressions difficult, however PEERS instructors work with the crews and allow firefighters to practice utilizing their own gear and equipment. This hands-on training increases department preparedness should a firefighter collapse.