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Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2019 10:15 am

Why Do Fire Trucks Respond to Medical Calls?

Most people assume that when they call 911 for a medical emergency, an ambulance with trained EMTs and paramedics will respond and transport them to the hospital. Many people are surprised when a fire truck arrives to the scene, sometimes even before an ambulance. The first responders working for Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Fire and Emergency Services, like many fire departments, are not only trained firefighters, but also certified and experienced EMTs and paramedics. These personnel may ride on the fire truck for one shift and switch over to the ambulance for the next, a benefit of being cross-trained to respond to a wide variety of emergencies. 

When someone calls 911, the dispatcher on the other end of the phone may not be able to hear everything the caller is saying or the patient’s symptoms may sound worse than they actually are. Calls to 911 are not routine, emergency units are dispatched by their location to respond the quickest and to anticipate the worse-case scenario. A fire truck and ambulance are dispatched to every medical call on the installation. There are often more fire trucks than ambulances and fire trucks are often closer and more available.

A thorough patient assessment is needed on every patient. Vitals must be obtained and the patient must be moved out to the ambulance, often times down stairs, over rough terrain or out of cramped conditions in some houses.

Higher priority medical emergencies also require additional personnel and resources. A paramedic quick response vehicle is dispatched on all high response medical calls aboard MCB Camp Lejeune. In the event of a cardiac arrest when someone’s heart stops, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), is the patient’s only chance of survival. Rescuers performing chest compressions must switch off at least every two minutes to prevent fatigue per American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines. Additional personnel are needed to administer medications, perform defibrillation on the cardiac monitor and maintain the person’s airway. These roles cannot be filled by the two people working on the ambulance.

A team approach has been adopted by the Camp Lejeune Fire and Emergency Services to provide the best care possible for the Marines, Sailors and civilians aboard Camp Lejeune and the surrounding areas.

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