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City firemen awarded for saving lives

Saving someone’s life in an emergency, when every second counts, can be a challenging and intense experience — but 11 members of the Mount Airy Fire Department have done just that.

Lt. Jake Henley, firefighter Isaac Crotts, Lt. Brad Harrell, Lt. Dusty Smith, Capt. Trey Leonard, Lt. Justin Mayes, firefighter Dustin Swaim, Capt Scottie Wolfe and Capt. Danny Vipperman were recognized for lifesaving actions by the city council during a special ceremony at a meeting last Thursday night.

Two other department members also are on the list who did not attend, Steve Everett and Dalton Simmons.

Each person involved is credited with saving one life during 2022 and was issued a certificate.

The lifesaving award presentation is an annual observance recognizing the contributions firefighters make in addition to battling blazes, a gesture that never gets old, city officials say.

This has had special significance since 2010, when municipal fire personnel took on the extra role as first-responders to a wide range of emergency medical situations in addition to their normal functions. That was a major expansion of a service previously launched in 1997 which was limited to cardiac calls.

Those expanded responses might include a heart attack case, drug overdose, stroke, diabetes-related issue, cutting/stabbing, shooting, drowning/diving accident or cases of unresponsive persons.

“The opportunity to save a life doesn’t come on every call,” Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said when the lifesaving honors were bestowed by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.

But department personnel have proven they are up to that task as needed, which involves providing effective pre-hospital care to victims in various emergencies.

Administering CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), removing an obstruction from an airway or controlling bleeding in a trauma situation were examples of that mentioned by Justin Jarrell, basic life support/public relations coordinator, who spoke during the recognition program.

With an average response time of less than three minutes at last report, city firefighters often reach a scene and render initial care ahead of EMS paramedics who provide advanced treatment that stabilizes patients until they reach a hospital.

Being credited with a medical save is a strictly defined process, which assesses the tangible role a firefighter played in prolonging someone’s life, whether it be restoring a pulse or someone’s ability to breathe.

Under program guidelines, multiple fire personnel can play a role in saving a single patient, according to previous reports. One firefighter might be engaged in chest compression and another ventilation, while someone else administers basic drugs the department is allowed to provide.

A county audit committee examines every case carefully to gauge the difference first-response efforts made in the outcome of an emergency to qualify as a save.

“We are very fortunate for the services they provide,” Commissioner Chad Hutchens said of the city firefighters.

More than numbers

“Departmental saves are up to 110 since the inception of the medical program in 1997,” Poindexter noted Wednesday in reference to the human equation behind the statistics.

“After the 2010 move to go ‘full medical response,’ our save numbers per year started going up significantly due to the fact we were afforded the opportunity to answer more medical calls,” the city fire chief added.

“The more calls we answered, the more chances we had to perform lifesaving measures — we projected that and it did in fact come true.”



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