TMCNet:  The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Kokua Line column

[February 05, 2013]

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Kokua Line column

Feb 05, 2013 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- QUESTION: Could you please help me understand why many times I have heard or seen an ambulance and firetruck respond to the same emergency call I have seen one or the other get there soon after each other, then the firetruck leaves.


ANSWER: We did a Google search and found that yours is a common question across the nation, because having both ambulance and fire crews respond to an emergency is not an uncommon practice.

Policies and procedures may differ depending on the jurisdiction, but the basic answer is that both fire and ambulance crews are equipped with medical equipment and supplies, so both may respond initially to an emergency.

The Honolulu Fire Department's "policy is to provide medical services to the public, as resources permit, when requested by the city's Emergency Medical Services dispatch center," said HFD spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig.

EMS dispatchers request HFD assistance for priority medical emergencies, such as potentially life-threatening cases that require "rapid evaluation and intervention," he said.

Seelig explained that 911 calls for medical services are sent to the EMS dispatch center, where dispatchers either will share the call with HFD dispatchers or request HFD assistance, depending on the nature and degree of the emergency.

That could result in fire, city ambulance and sometimes private ambulance crews being sent to the same call.

"While this might sound inefficient, it does result in an integrated response system that delivers the most appropriate treatment within the desired medical window of time," Seelig said. "This system of care increases the chance or survival and positive outcome for Honolulu's residents and visitors who suffer from acute traumatic and medical conditions." He also explained that HFD, with more than 72 "apparatus," are usually closer than ambulances to a medical emergency. Ambulances also often are farther away or unavailable because of another emergency.

Each crew has four or five firefighters trained to perform "life-sustaining procedures." More than 60 percent of HFD's 1,100 firefighters are trained at the Emergency Medical Technician Basic level, Seelig said.

"HFD firefighters will begin basic patient assessment and care prior to an ambulance arrival and frequently provide lifesaving actions such as CPR," he said.

Once an ambulance crew arrives, he said firefighters often help in lifting the patient and occasionally may help care for the patient in the back of the ambulance.

"This team approach benefits the patient and the community," Seelig said.

QUESTION: My husband was riding his new mo-ped near Ala Moana Center when he was hit by a car and taken by ambulance to a hospital. He was in critical condition and hospitalized for more than a month. I tried numerous times to find out what happened to his mo-ped, and not one person I've spoken to, in person or on the phone, could tell me where it was taken. The police report has pictures of the mo-ped's damage but no information as to how it was removed from the busy intersection. Could you please help us find out where mo-peds are taken after an accident and how to get them back ANSWER: They're not taken to any particular place, but in this case the problem was that the police report did not explain what happened to your husband's mo-ped.

After we contacted the Honolulu Police Department, you told us that you were called soon afterward and reunited with the mo-ped. It turned out that a security guard at a building near the accident site had offered to store it.

That fact "should have been noted in the report," acknowledged HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu. Because it wasn't, it "required a little more digging" to find out what happened.

If vehicles involved in accidents are blocking traffic or creating a traffic hazard, they "will be moved to the side, if possible," Yu said. "If not, (they) would be towed." ---- Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.

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