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M/PIFCD plans advanced life support for trucks, stations

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | May 5, 2021

pleblanc@breezenewspapers.com

Fire Chief Ben Mickuleit and Capt. Bobby Barr are setting their sights on an upgrade from Basic Life Support to Advanced Life Support for all fire trucks and all stations on the island. While this will certainly take some time to accomplish, they feel the results for the community will be well worth the time and effort.

“We have always shared the vision of our department one day becoming ALS,” said Mickuleit of himself and Barr. “Since I became chief and he became captain we have had the opportunity to do so and have been working on becoming an ALS department. We took baby steps a few years back by carrying more BLS equipment on the truck.”

One of these baby steps was to carry Narcan on the trucks for opiate overdoses, Mickuleit explained, adding that they have already used the life-saving drug six times in 2021 alone. A medical director had to be hired in order for the department to obtain permission to use the drug, which was another step taken, he said.

“Currently, we have seven employees completing paramedic school,” Mickuleit said. “Once they’re done next year they will go through a credentialing process to be sure our medical director feels confident in their skills to practice in the field.”

Mickuleit said they are also concentrating on equipment for the next two years, with the hope that some of it will be obtained through grants. Upgrading to Advanced Life Support will allow the department to provide the community with better service, he said, by doing more in-depth intervention in the event of an emergency.

“We could essentially provide more drug therapy and also we will be able to use a monitor to read more cardiac rhythms in the field,” Mickuleit said. “Unfortunately, we only have one EMS ambulance unit on the island, so if there’s a true emergency, not near the Center, it’s going to take time for EMS to be there.”

This, he said, is because all the fire stations in the district are very strategically placed in order to achieve a response time of less than seven minutes. Better than 90 percent of the time, he says they should be on the scene within seven minutes.

Barr explained the monitors importance in the area of cardio interventions in the field, such as pacing and arrhythmias, which he says are fairly common.

“We can make those corrections with electricity,” said Barr. “Right now the priority is going to be Station 3 because of its location in Bokeelia. If the ambulance leaves from the Center, we could be waiting on a transport unit coming from somewhere in Cape Coral.”

They are also able to put ALS equipment on boats for marine calls, Barr said, along with a medic, to begin interventions sooner. This, he said, will help with diagnostics for transport decisions.

Mickuleit says the goal is to have Station 3 operational by the end of next year, with the addition of another truck every two years, ultimately having ALS on every truck in the district.

In an effort to keep safety an island priority, CPR classes are taught regularly. There is no charge for the basic CPR class and there is also a paid class, where participants receive an American Heart CPR Certification. If anyone is interested in taking one of these classes, they can call Station 1 at 239-283-0030.

“Across the country, if you look at any fire department from Detroit to New York City, the calls are mostly medical,” said Barr. “A trend in the fire service is to provide the highest level of medical care that we possibly can, and that’s our goal. We’re trying to fit the needs of our community. We feel ALS is a very high standard in the fire service right now. Lee County is growing and making our service more and more vital.”