Life support

Boulder Fire-Rescue Heads To Internal Forward Survival Unit

Boulder Fire-Rescue is making progress toward its goal of improving the level of care its emergency responders can provide in the field.

When 2023 rolls around in just under six months, Boulder Fire intends to have its own in-house Advanced Emergency Medical Services unit, enabling city personnel to administer life-saving drugs, perform procedures invasive and the full extent of cardiac resuscitation in the field.

To get this work started, the city approved $241,300 in its 2022 budget, which provided the money needed to hire Jenna Steege to serve in the new role of EMS program administrator. She’s been in the job for a few months.

Steege is responsible for maintaining Boulder Fire’s current level of medical service as well as managing the transition as Boulder prepares for its first Advanced Survival Unit.

Boulder Fire-Rescue conducts medical training. (Courtesy picture)

The role, which Steege describes as a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, is important, given that the department’s call load is dominated by calls for medical services.

In 2021, for example, Boulder Fire-Rescue responded to 10,016 medical calls. Fire-related calls were next, but far behind, with 2,602 calls in 2021.

“Having someone who is just focused on EMS…is important because it’s such a big part of what we do,” Steege said.

Fire Chief Mike Calderazzo was instrumental in developing the 2020 Master Plan which sets out the goal related to the level and quality of care that can be delivered by his team.

He views the decision to improve the level of care Boulder first responders can provide as a multi-faceted decision. This will improve response times and create a team that can answer more calls and provide better service to people in need.

“Being able to take the all-hazards approach simplifies a lot of things for me, and it allows us as an organization to achieve better (advanced life support) response times and better all-hazards response times,” said said Calderazzo. “That’s the logic behind it all.”

The goal is to reduce response times, which currently range from nine to 11 minutes, to around six minutes, a metric set out in Boulder Valley’s overall plan that is considered best practice nationally.

It’s not an easy goal to achieve, but it’s worth the effort, the chef noted.

“You set the lens high and shoot it,” he said.

As he strives to improve his standard of care, Boulder Fire has sent three of his own to paramedic school. The firefighters are paid and will keep their jobs, but will have six months off to focus on school, Steege noted.

“We want to invest in our own … (people) who have already served our community,” she said. “It’s a big deal for me.”

This is especially important as there is a nationwide shortage of paramedics.

“Every agency is fighting for all paramedics,” Steege said.

Additional infrastructure will be required for the transition to advanced life support. It’s something Mayor Aaron Brockett asked when City Council received an update on the Boulder Fire-Rescue Master Plan earlier this month.

The additional equipment and medications needed to provide this higher level of care can be expensive. For example, a Lifepak, which is a compact device designed to treat cardiac arrest patients, can cost up to $36,000 for one.

Ultimately, Calderazzo and Steege envision a future in which Boulder has its own fleet of ambulances and can transport its patients to the hospital. Currently, the city is contracting with American Medical Rescue for advanced ambulance service.

But for now, Boulder Fire-Rescue is simply moving forward: educating and training its staff, staffing an engine with a three-person team capable of providing advanced care, and figuring out what the advanced resuscitation program should look like. while collecting data throughout the process. way.

Once this initial construction phase is complete, it will offer a blueprint for continued expansion.

“We just need to get started,” Steege said.

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