RIA first responders save lives on/off the island
March 14, 2014
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill.--Rock Island Arsenal's fire department sits across Rodman Avenue from the Army Sustainment Command headquarters and houses the men, women and equipment responsible for emergency first response on the island.
It starts with a call. When 9-1-1 is dialed on the island, it connects directly to the dispatch center in building 225 on Rodman Ave.
"We can be upwards of six to ten EMS (emergency medical service) calls (daily) maybe, including the cities," said Terese Gleason. "We take all kinds of calls for the police department, too."
Gleason has worked emergency dispatch for nearly 40 years, 32 of them for Davenport, Iowa. Experience has taught her how to cope with some of the stress involved with dispatching for emergency services.
"I will tell you what I tell a trainee; it's (the incident) already over with, and if you panic, you're not helping anyone," she said. "If you can't think, you're not helping anyone."
The RIA first responders have saved lives on and off the installation.
When factory workers found a man lying unconscious on the ground in one of the manufacturing facilities on the island, they started CPR and called 9-1-1.
"I've been on several of these types of calls, and the outcome usually isn't very good," said Darin Keith, RIA FD engine and truck captain. "This particular one, I remember thinking I didn't see this individual making it. Nobody knew how long he had been down."
Keith, a nine-year veteran of the RIA FD, took over the chest compressions while the paramedic crew started an IV.
"Sometimes things are dispatched differently than they actually are," said Ryan McDonnell, RIA FD firefighter and EMT. "It (the 9-1-1 call) didn't come out as a code (cardiac arrest). But, when we got there, it came out later as 'CPR in progress,' when we were walking in."
The ambulance crew was able to revive him en route to the hospital.
"We did CPR until we were going out the gate. (That's) when we noticed we had a heartbeat back," said Daryle Wood, RIA FD fire inspector. Wood was a paramedic on the fire engine that day.
"The chance of survivability on those types of calls is slim to begin with, and especially with not knowing the downtime," said Keith. "To be able to get him back the way we did is just great teamwork. And, with the help of the co-worker that started the CPR before we got there."
Wood and McDonnell were teamed up on another "code" call that took them off the Arsenal. Police officers needed assistance in Rock Island. The [Quad] cities' assets were tied up with other agencies at a structural fire so, putting to use the mutual aid agreement between cities, the RIA FD responded with an ambulance, a paramedic and an EMT.
The two knew they were dealing with a patient who was unconscious and not breathing. When they got there, McDonnell took over CPR compressions while Wood prepared the heart monitor and medications.
"We got on scene, the police officers were doing CPR," said McDonnell. "They did great initial CPR, they had the AED (automated external defibrillator) already hooked up, which is good. We transitioned in and took over the scene. We have a little more advanced training than the police officers."
Typically, a fire engine accompanies the ambulance on every medical call. Since RIA's and Rock Island's engines were tied up with the structural fire, an engine from Moline arrived about 10 minutes after the RIA FD.
"He was in cardiac arrest," said Wood. "If they (police officers) had not have done what they call early access which is starting CPR, he would've died."
Wood started out on the RIA police force before making the decision to crossover to the fire department. He had spent seven years as an Army active-duty military policeman.
Both Keith and McDonnell grew up around firefighting. Keith's father started the volunteer ambulance service in Erie, Ill., his hometown, back in the mid-70s. McDonnell's uncle was a full-time firefighter in Bettendorf, Iowa.
"I love what I do," said Keith. "Everybody says, 'I have to go to work.' I don't say that. To me, this isn't work. I love coming here and doing my job and doing the best I can and making sure the guys, the firefighters that work with me, go home safe. That's our priority, I love helping people, always have."
Robert Andersen is also a firefighter and EMT at the Arsenal. He's a certified CPR instructor and teaches it to Soldiers and civilians on the island, as well as at the Unity Point Health Rock Island campus.
He said science is proving that compressions are more important than giving breaths during CPR.
"If you see someone drop in front of you and the only thing you do is compressions, you're doing a lot," he said.
Compressions keep oxygen-rich blood flowing through the body, including to the brain which needs oxygen to survive.
"Time is brains," said Wood. "The faster that we get to that patient and we're able to start emergency care, the more likely they will have a better outcome."
The RIA FD also has members certified in HAZMAT operations and technical rescue operations including high angle, confined space, trench and structural collapse rescues. They support mutual aid box alert system division 43's deployable HAZMAT and technical rescue teams, said Deputy Fire Chief Joe Heim, RIA FD.
"We do a lot with the communities," he said. "We do a lot with neighboring departments. We do a lot of training, we interact quite often. That's a good thing."
Because RIA is on an island, the department also has to be prepared to respond to emergencies on the river. They've got three boats they use for first-response situations.
"We end up being kind of the jack-of-all-trades," he said. "You know, when people can't figure something out, they call the fire department and we try to go figure it out."
The RIA FD's first responders work 24 hours on-duty/24 hours off-duty shifts with a "Kelly" day after every sixth shift. A "Kelly" day is firefighter slang for a day off and serves to bring the work week down to the agreed number of hours. Nine to 12 personnel per shift are responsible for manning the fire engine, the fire truck, and the ambulance daily.