Department aids lifesaving efforts

First Posted: 1/25/2009

Most citizens think members of the Mount Airy Fire Department spend all their time fighting fires, but theyre also providing a valuable lifesaving function, based on a new report.
During 2008, members answered 282 cardiac-related incidents in the municipality, and, by years end, had reached a total of 22 lives saved since 1997, when the fire department started supplementing the lifesaving services available to city residents.
It began responding to such incidents as chest pain, cardiac arrests, respiratory arrests, cases of unresponsive (cardiac) patients and those involving choking.
The department has provided medical care to 2,511 patients since the lifesaving program was implemented in the late 1990s. Figures on those activities were contained in a 2008 annual report detailing city firefighting operations, which was presented to the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.
Most of the departments 35 employees are medically certified to provide basic care, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and cardiac defibrillation with the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED).
Since 1997, firefighters have attempted to resuscitate 90 patients in cardiac arrest with AEDs, a total that seemed to impress the commissioners when they received the report from Fire Chief Benny Brannock during a recent meeting.
There was some weeping and gnashing of teeth when that was put into the fire department, Commissioner Todd Harris said, but the addition has directly led to lives being saved.
The key to the programs success is the time factor, city officials say. With only a five-to-10-minute window of opportunity available to rescue a heart attack victim, city fire personnel can be supplying a basic level of medical care within four minutes of an emergency call being dispatched.
This quick response allows a victim to receive potentially vital care that no other agency can provide, and has proven to be successful, according to the annual report.
Each year, an estimated 400,000 to 460,000 Americans die from heart disease in an emergency room or before reaching a hospital, according to the American Heart Association. Heart disease is the nations No. 1 killer, with cardiac-related calls representing the most-prevalent type of incident handled by the Surry County emergency-communications unit.
Of the 282 cardiac-related emergencies the fire department responded to in 2008, 29 victims were found in full cardiac arrest and four other patients in respiratory arrest. Persons in cardiac arrest are not breathing and their hearts have stopped beating.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.

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