Paramedic firefighters

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Pakenham CFA firefighters have been trained in how to respond to medical emergencies alongside paramedics to better support the town’s two ambulances in dealing with life-threatening incidents sooner.

As Emergency Medical Response (EMR) responders, local firefighters will now carry a first-aid kit, oxygen kit, cervical collars and a defibrillator, enabling them to respond to cardiac arrest cases and act on triple zero calls at the same time as paramedics.

The number of Victorians suffering heart attacks increased to a 10-year high last year, placing greater pressure on Ambulance Victoria teams and emergency response times.

Cardinia shire’s growing population and limited number of ambulance vehicles has put added pressure on local ambulance crews.

Pakenham CFA firefighters have been trained over the past two months to recognise and treat a range of medical emergencies including cardiac arrests, asthma, choking, anaphylaxis, stroke, drug overdoses and other respiratory illnesses, having received specialist training on providing basic life support and how to give CPR.

They have received additional training on specific methods for treating paediatric and elderly patients.

The EMR program also includes training for appropriate means of communicating with family members and bystanders at the scenes of emergencies.

Pakenham CFA firefighter Chris Napier said it was likely that a fire truck would be the first to arrive at the scene of a medical emergency.

“Our message to the residents is to not be surprised if a fire truck arrives at a medical emergency,” Mr Napier said.

“As a fire truck can typically be out the door in Pakenham within 90 seconds at any time of the day or night, this can mean that when dispatched simultaneously with Ambulance Victoria, a fire truck may often be first on scene.

“Every second counts in these life threatening emergencies and CFA firefighters will be working alongside Ambulance Victoria to ensure patients receive the highest level of care.”

Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino said the training provided to firefighters through the EMR program would “save lives”.

“The integrated fire stations where fire fighters will respond to heart attack calls are in Victoria’s growth areas where the demand for services is increasing,” Mr Merlino said.

“This will help deliver faster emergency medical response times for these growing communities and support paramedics.”

The program officially rolled out in Pakenham on Monday 3 October.

The State Government program has been trialled in Berwick among other brigades from 2007, and in Cranbourne and Hallam since 2011.

The EMR trials have been found to “significantly” improve response times and help increase survival rates of heart attack patients.

Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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