By: Dr. Earl J. Campazzi, Jr., Special for the Civic Association — At first glance, it appears that the Town of Palm Beach Fire-Rescue is trying to put itself out of business. Not so, according to Division Chief Sean Baker. Rather, they are expanding their community services to educate the public on how to prevent emergencies.
The Palm Beach Civic Association asked me to tell you about these programs to companion with the Civic Association Fire Safety brochure. The brochure, produced by the Civic Association with advice from Palm Beach Fire-Rescue, was the idea of George Cohon, Civic Association Director, and is being mailed to residents this week. It’s sponsored by Bruce Gendelman Insurance Services.
The brochure is also available to the public on the Civic Association website as a PDF download [CLICK HERE]. This year, the Civic Association is celebrating 75 years of informing and assisting the residents of Palm Beach.
PB Fire-Rescue has four major public education initiatives in addition to its emergency duties:
1. Fall Prevention
2. Increase the use of Automatic External Defibrillators
3. No appointment needed blood pressure and pulse checks at all three fire stations
4. A January 12 “brown bag” health fair at all fire stations
For healthy Palm Beachers, falling is your number one health risk. It might surprise you that head injury from falls is, by far, the most frequent injury seen at St. Mary’s Trauma Center. For PB Fire-Rescue, falls are the second most frequent type of call behind “sick” calls which is a very broad category.
One easy way to decrease your risk of falling is by calling Cesar Lora at 561-227-5420, the PB Fire-Rescue Community Education Coordinator. A little known benefit of living in Palm Beach is that Fire-Rescue will walk through your home and make fall risk recommendations specifically for you. I have priced this service with local home nursing agencies. It is a $175 value; but, our Fire-Rescue offers this service for free to residents.
Only 127 out of approximately 5,000 PB homes have AEDs. AEDs provide a shock that can “restart” the heart especially if it used in the first couple of minutes that your loved one is unconscious. According to ScienceDaily , AEDs almost triple the chance for survival (2.7x).
PB Fire-Rescue has an extraordinary response time of four minutes (average) compared to the national average of fifteen minutes . However, the real problem when your heart stops is that your brain does not get oxygen from blood circulation. A simple way to realize the minute-to-minute necessity of oxygen to the brain is to time yourself holding your breath. Virtually no one can hold their breath for four+ minutes, so it makes sense for everyone to have an AED in their home.
If you register your AED with Fire-Rescue, they will teach you how easy it is to use this device. You simply put a big sticky pad on the patient’s chest and another on their back, stand back and press the button. AEDs monitor the patient’s heart though their pads and will only shock if needed.
Fire-Rescue will also track and advise you when the batteries and pads expire and need replacement. Neither the Town nor I sell AEDs which cost approximately $1,200, so there is no conflict of interest in this advice.
Additionally, Fire-Rescue will advise you about supplies to stop bleeding. The military has developed fantastic products – foams, bandages, and tourniquets to stop bleeding. These work much better than a wet towel especially when the patient is on blood thinners which is very common among Palm Beachers. Supplies to stop bleeding should be kept next to your AED for simplicity.
Blood Pressure Checks
You are always welcome at your fire station. Paramedics will gladly check your blood pressure and pulse. If you have a home monitor, they encourage you to bring it along to check its accuracy. They will write down the results for you to take to your doctor. As a practicing physician, I know the value of a patient bringing several accurate blood pressure readings from outside of a doctor’s office.
Choice of a hospital – Fire-Rescue matches your needs to the capabilities of local hospitals. Often, you will need to go to the nearest hospital. Seconds, let alone minutes, matter especially for stroke, trauma, and cardiac issues. If you are having symptoms of a stroke, you will be transported to one of the area’s stroke centers: Good Samaritan Medical Center has a Primary Stroke Center and St. Mary’s and JFK Medical Center have Comprehensive Stroke Centers . You are welcome to request a hospital. Fire-Rescue’s decision will be based on your medical condition and their available resources.
When should you call 911? Chief Baker said that unlike some other communities, Palm Beachers do not abuse 911. He encourages you to err on the side of caution and call if you only think maybe you should. Certainly call 911, if you or someone you are with, is having chest pain, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, altered mental status, or uncontrolled bleeding. Weakness and fever may also be good reasons to dial 911. This list is not all-inclusive.
Trauma Hawk – Helicopter transport is for patients needing to go to a local Level 1 Trauma Center – St. Mary’s or Delray Medical Center. The decision on whether to use the helicopter is based on many factors including travel time. North of Sloan’s Curve, it is usually faster for Fire-Rescue to drive. South of Sloan’s Curve, the helicopter is often needed to expedite transport.
Lift Assist – If someone falls and cannot get up, Fire-Rescue will assess the patient for injuries or complications from a fall. If all is OK, they will lift the patient back to their feet without requiring transport to a hospital.
Contingency Plans – Each fire station has a rescue truck (used to be called an “ambulance”) staffed with a 3-person crew 24/7. For serious calls, five paramedics can be sent immediately. If the southern truck is in use, one of the two northern crews will relocate to the southern station. Fire Rescue is staffed and equipped to easily handle simultaneous medical calls. Beyond that, the City of West Palm Beach or Palm Beach County provides mutual aid back-up.
Fun facts — Bridges are kept down for Fire-Rescue use regardless of schedule or boat traffic. Traffic signals not only turn green for Fire-Rescue, but they do so a minute or two before the emergency vehicle arrives to clear the road and intersection.
A Thank You to All PB Fire-Rescue Personnel
They are doing great work for the Palm Beach community. I hope that you will benefit by knowing more about their services.
Earl J. Campazzi, Jr., M.D., M.P.H
Campazzi Concierge Medical Services