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When a traffic accident happens in the city of Hardeeville or if there is a medical call with someone suffering from cardiac arrest, more helpful hands will be on the way.
During a press conference Thursday morning, the Hardeeville Fire Department announced that all of its firefighters now hold emergency medical technician certificates, which allows the firefighters to perform basic life support.
“It’s one of our newest endeavors as a fire department to provide an excellent service to our citizens here and those who are traveling through the area that might need emergency medical assistance,” said Joey Rowell, Hardeeville Assistant Fire Chief. “The fire department leadership and city staff realized that we needed to enhance our medical-providing skills to our neighborhoods and communities as well as folks that come through the city.”
Rowell said the training was made possible because one of the department’s captains applied for an $80,000 grant in 2016 which allowed the department to send 17 people to EMT school which lasted about five months. The city has also added the training costs into the budget for firefighters who are new hires that need to take the classes to become certified. All currently certified firefighters also go through monthly training in the department.
“With the increase in population comes an increase in calls,” Rowell said. “Those calls are typically medically related and because we have our fire stations strategically placed around the city, we can offer aid to those folks a lot quicker.”
Rowell said with the training, firefighters can help provide life-saving techniques.
“With basic life support level, we can provide services such as CPR and administering Narcan for opioid overdoses,” said Deputy Fire Chief Elliott DeBiase. “We do carry AEDs (automated external defibrillator) so we do help in cardiac events as well.”
Rowell said the training is important because there are only four ambulances housed in Jasper County for 911 transports, so the response time could be as much as 15 minutes before one arrives on scene. The new certifications allow the firefighters to start helping a patient right away.
“Having all of the folks trained and on these calls rapidly can make the difference between life and death,” he said.
Battalion Chief Woody Childs said with the new training, officers will able to do more to help someone.
“When someone is encountering a medical emergency, particularly cardiac arrest, you need a team of healthcare providers quickly, confidently and aggressively treating that condition and you need it now,” Childs said. “Now with good CPR, good definitive airways, AED’s and a team providing ventilation CPR and defibrillation immediately, that’s a big deal.”
Hardeeville Mayor Harry Williams said he was proud of how the department took on the responsibility and made it its own.
“This training provides the firefighters the ability to get there first because there are only two ambulances servicing this part of the county,” Williams said. “Hardeeville alone is 55 square miles and we only have two ambulances and they must respond to I-95 accidents which are frequent. In a cardiac arrest incident, the statistics show that for every minute that goes by, the chances of survival are reduced by 10 percent. You only have 10 minutes to revive a cardiac arrest victim.”