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EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES (EMS)
Spokane Valley Fire Department has been providing pre-hospital Emergency Medical Services (EMS) for nearly 45 years. In the early years, EMS in Spokane Valley was delivered by Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) in Squads who provided Basic Life Support (BLS). A few years later, all firefighters became certified EMTs and the Squads were staffed by Paramedics to deliver Advanced Life Support (ALS).
Today, we respond to medical emergencies with eight Engines, two Ladders, and two Squads. Seven of our Engines and both Ladders are staffed with Paramedics and provide ALS services. Our remaining Engine is currently BLS but is anticipated to be ALS-capable by the end of 2022. Our Squads are staffed with two EMTs and respond to lower-acuity medical calls to keep other units in service.
On incidents where the closest Engine or Ladder does not have a Paramedic on board, and the patient requires a higher level or care, an ALS (Advanced Life Support/Paramedic) unit will respond as well. If transport to the hospital is required, a private ambulance operated by American Medical Response will also respond. That is why you sometimes get two fire apparatus and an ambulance at your house for a medical call. In 2021, 81.8% of the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s 22,422 calls for service were medically related.
All Firefighters are certified to provide emergency medical services at one of two different levels of medical care:
- EMTs – Basic Life Support (BLS), are trained to perform life-sustaining procedures including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), controlling bleeding, treating shock, stabilizing injuries and wounds, and other first aid skills
- Paramedics – Advanced Life Support (ALS), have a solid foundation in BLS skills, are also trained to perform more advanced life sustaining procedures including airway management, drug administration, stroke and cardiac care, ECG rhythm interpretation, Intravenous (IV) and Intraosseous (IO) access, and other advanced medical skills and procedures
With a focus on continuous improvement, Spokane Valley Fire Department strives to ensure that our Paramedics and EMTs are highly trained, well equipped and that we have our fingers on the pulse of developing trends in emergency medicine.
In 2015 we launched a Rescue Task Force (RTF), which is an elite group of EMTs and Paramedics who are equipped and trained to go into active shooter and other criminal mass casualty incidents, providing lifesaving care on the incident scene with support of law enforcement. In 2018, the Helicopter Rescue Medic program was started with the Spokane Fire Department to provide specially trained Paramedics capable of performing remote patient access and treatment from a Spokane County Sheriff’s Department helicopter.
Pit Crew CPR
The Spokane Valley Fire Department consistently achieves some of the highest cardiac survival rates in Washington State which is consistently in the top states in the nation. The measure is based on the “Utstein Bystander” measurement, an industry standard with four criteria: 1) the collapse is witnessed, 2) the collapse has a cardiac origin, 3) a bystander intervenes with CPR and/or AED, and 4) the patient is in a shock-able rhythm.
The Department credits “Pit Crew” CPR, an innovative approach to cardiac arrest intervention adopted by SVFD in 2012 with this high survival rate. “Pit Crew” has become the Spokane County-wide CPR standard for first responders. The SVFD conducts this training annually with the City of Spokane Fire Department, Spokane County Fire District 8, Spokane County Fire District 9, AMR ambulance crews, and other neighboring fire departments.
Loosely modeled after NASCAR, “Pit Crew” CPR is an approach to a cardiac arrest incident that emphasizes defined roles, responsibilities and the efficient and planned use of personnel on scene to provide the highest ratio of compressions throughout the arrest, in conjunction with other advanced life support procedures. In “Pit Crew” CPR, every crew member has a role and they know exactly what to do. The approach provides structure to ensure a compression rate of 100 per minute is maintained. This ensures blood continues to reach the brain which gives the victim of a cardiac arrest the best possible chance of surviving.