Rocklin Fire implements advanced life support service

New program helps paramedics save lives
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald correspondent
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The Rocklin Fire Department just increased its service level for people with medical emergencies.
After six years of planning, the department started its Advanced Life Support Program Monday at two of the three fire stations.

“Our goal is to provide ALS services throughout the entire city,” said Rocklin Fire Battalion Chief Rick Holmes. “We need to hire two more paramedics to have enough paramedics to do that. We’re trying to advance our capabilities as a fire department.”

Right now, 67 percent of the total call volume isn’t about fires – they’re calls for emergency medical services, according to the department.

Up until this week, the fire department only conducted Basic Life Support for people with emergency medical calls.

“For those times that they do have a life-threatening event – whether it be cardiac, asthmatic or seizures – there is a vast amount of skills that we can do now that we weren’t able to do before,” Holmes explained. “Be-fore, we could not administer drugs, perform advanced airways (like a tracheotomy). We couldn’t do any of those skills.”

The patients weren’t in danger because the fire department was working alongside Placer County’s ambulance contractor, American Medical Re-sponse, whose crews are expected to conduct the needed ALS services.

“We may put in a Basic Life Support airway – it will go into the mouth and keep the mouth open for (crews) to do compression for CPR, whereas an ALS airway is actually a tube that goes into your throat and enters into your lungs,” Holmes said.

Now, Rocklin Fire Department Station No. 1 on Rocklin Road and Station No. 3 on Wildcat Boulevard will have a firefighter, who is also a certified paramedic, on board their three-person fire engines. They’ll also have the equipment and medication to do the job.

“They have been doing just firefighter BLS procedures because we had to wait until we had enough people,” Holmes said.

“We were stuck because of the economy. Even though we had paramedics in our department, they were not acting as paramedics.”

That means that for the last 50 months, the city has been paying firefighter/paramedics a stipend for the training and skills sets they couldn’t use – more than $100,000.

“Firefighter/parame-dics receive a $500 stipend a month per the firefighters’ memorandum of understanding,” Rocklin Fire Chief James Summers said. “In July 2008, our first four firefighter/paramedics were hired. Fire staff recommended we have six firefighter/paramedics on-line prior to starting the ALS program. Due to the economic environment, we were not able to bring two more on until this year.”

The city did save money by hiring through attrition as other longtime fire department members retired.
“The new hire is not a new position. It is a vacant position being hired with someone who has paramedic skills,” Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst said. “So it is not an additional position.”

Holmes said people who live near Rocklin Fire Department Station No. 2 on Crest Drive should not be concerned about their level of emergency service from Rocklin Fire.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t reap the benefits of this,” Holmes said. “Our (fire) captains know if they feel as though ALS capabilities would be prudent to the (emergency) call and there is a delay with (the ambulance) they can go ahead and dispatch one of our ALS engines.”

Rocklin Fire is accredited for the ALS Program through the Sierra-Sacramento Valley Emergency Medical Services Agency.