The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

December 12, 2012

Fire personnel need to respond


DANVILLE — Danville Public Safety Director Larry Thomason has issued a directive that has removed certain medical emergencies from having a response from the Danville Fire Department.

As of Oct. 1, calls involving stroke, diabetic problems, unconscious persons, chest pain, overdose, seizures, allergic reaction, childbirth and heat exposure, no longer qualify for an automatic response from the fire department.

In many cases, fire personnel arrive prior to Medix on an emergency medical call due to the location of the stations. Since the exact nature of some medical calls are never known until patient contact has happened, there will most certainly be times that the fire department arriving first could radio Medix to slow a response or give other needed details of what might be needed to provide care for the patient based on the assessment by fire personnel. The sooner treatment is received for a medical emergency the better potential there is for a positive outcome.

Director Thomason stated that if the dispatcher has any doubt about the nature of the call the fire department shall be sent. That sounded believable and somewhat reasonable when I was setting across from him in his office.

When I had to dial 911 for my mother the morning of Dec 4 due to a medical emergency she was having, it didn’t seem nearly as believable or reasonable.

The 911 operator asked me all of the pertinent questions and I gave them all of the appropriate responses. I asked that they have E-3 respond because my mother lives only about 200 yards from the fire station. The 911 operator assured me help was on the way.

Under ideal conditions it would take Medix about 4 minutes to arrive at my Mother’s house. E-3 could arrive in less than a minute.

After several minutes, I called 911 again and asked where response was as I was looking down the street at E-3 bay door not opening. The 911 dispatcher told me fire department would not respond to call for my mother’s condition. At least three times I demanded she have them dispatched because this was a life-threatening emergency and each time was told the fire department would not respond.

I was stunned and scared. I knew my Mom needed help that was just down the street and was being told she didn’t deserve a fire department response.

Soon I heard Medix coming. Before Medix arrived I looked out Mom’s door to see two police cars pull up. The police officers couldn’t help because they don’t carry medical equipment and don’t have much if any medical training.

Medix arrived and took Mom to hospital and she was still being evaluated three days later. I am writing this for all the citizens in Danville who think that the fire department is coming to your aid if a medical emergency happens in your house or neighborhood. Right now, you have to have the right type of emergency condition. If your condition is not on the list of fire department responses, good luck.

Director Thomason spoke with me just prior to the Dec. 4 council meeting stating he had added unconscious persons to the response list. This is better, but I believe all off the citizens should have fire department response whether their condition is being unconscious, stroke, allergic reaction, overdose, chest pain or any medically recognized life-threatening condition.

I think putting our citizenry at risk or denying them a fair shot when suffering from a true medical emergency is just plain dumb.

The 911 dispatchers have a hard enough job without being told to follow a directive that seems to be bad for our citizens. I simply want the appropriate response to life-threatening medical emergencies.

Randy G. Elliott is a retired fire captain in the Danville Fire Department.