After years of rural residents being deprived of a dedicated ambulance service, Southeast Weld Fire Protection District Chief Tom Beach established one. Five years later, the two-ambulance service earned a statewide award.
On Tuesday, the Emergency Medical Services Association of Colorado named Southeast Weld Fire Protection District as Colorado’s Ambulance Service of the Year for 2018, according to a SEWFPD news release.
Beach said the announcement came out of the blue.
“We didn’t even know we were nominated,” Beach said. “We’re all kind of still in surprise.”
The district will receive the award in November at an EMSAC conference.
This news follows another award the 18-firefighter district earned in June: the Children’s Hospital Award for Excellence in Pediatric Trauma. Beach said both stem from anonymous nominations and carried equal surprise.
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“Pretty interesting for a rural department,” Beach said.
SEWFPD covers 492 square miles with one staffed station in Keenesburg and two equipped stations in Roggen and Prospect Valley. Beach said besides residential medical calls, the department handles a hefty call load along major roadways in the rural area.
Before 2013, the district relied on out-of-area ambulance services. Beach said the firefighters, who double as EMTs, could always respond to emergencies quickly because they were local, but they’d often have to wait 25 to 40 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. That doesn’t fly with heart attacks, Beach said.
Considering public safety and a growing population, Beach established a Basic Life Support ambulance for the district in 2013. Firefighters, who doubled as EMTs, cross-staffed the “aging” ambulance and engine, taking either deciding on the type of call. After signs of success, Beach worked with a primary Advanced Life Support ambulance service and surrounding mutual aid ambulances to try to give patients the best care possible.
Citizens saw an immediate improvement in timely care as well as hospital transport, and it became clear SEWFPD needed to add an ALS ambulance around the clock, according to the release.
Beach entered into a partnership with Platte Valley Medical Center to contract paramedics to staff the district’s ambulances, and in 2014, SEWFPD’s first ALS ambulance hit the roads.
Contrary to what most people think, Beach said, all ambulances are not the same. The district’s ALS ambulance has progressive features in place to keep emergency responders, as well as patients, safe. All seats are forward-facing and employ a 5-point safety harness, Beach said, and the powered stretcher also swivels, allowing paramedics and EMTs to more safely care for patients. It also includes effective equipment, such as the the Braslowe color coding system, a type of tape measure that helps responders estimate a child’s weight based on his or her length to allow for proper medication dosages.
Rolling along in the success, Beach said in 2019 the district hopes to be able to staff the Prospect Valley station to introduce another set of a cross-staffed BLS ambulance and engine.
Beach said the staffing depends on whether the mill levy passes, so he’s hoping it does. Otherwise, the district is still doing more with less staff.