As a way to save time, resources and emergency responses, the Carson City Fire Department has implemented a new ambulance service for the community.
As of this past October, the department has incorporated a Basic Life Support ambulance with two EMT-basic medics to run transport and non-emergency medical calls for Carson. The two work five days a week, Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Battalion Chief Tim DeHaven said the department looked at six months worth of data that showed that time to be the busiest call time for them.
“They take the time off the (Advanced Life Support) ambulance, it is a huge relief for call times that in the past we have had to cover with the ALS ambulance,” DeHaven said.
With the new rig, the time coverage helps the firefighter/paramedics to have more time to train, relieves some of the pressure from the 10,000 calls a year they run, and helps keep the ALS ambulance more available for emergent calls.
“It is working great, they are working out really well,” DeHaven said. “…Over 50 percent of our calls are for basic life support transfers, so they have the opportunity to respond to 50 percent of our calls.”
Since the start, the ambulance has ran 286 calls — roughly 2.7 calls a day. Per day, the BLS ambulance saves the ALS ambulance about 4.5 to 5 hours worth of calls — partially due to the fact the ambulance can take patients up to Reno, a trip that can take nearly an hour and a half round trip.
In addition to relieving Carson’s call times, the BLS ambulance helps the surrounding counties too. Because the ALS ambulance no longer has to cover some of the non-emergency calls, they don’t need to call upon mutual aid as much.
“In the past we only had the ALS ambulance so we had to bring in mutual aid to sit at the county line,” DeHaven said. “Now this cuts our mutual aid by 75 percent on the days they are working, which relieves some of the pressure on outlying counties.”
Though the program has only been in effect for about five months, the department is already looking at expanding the program and adding more BLS ambulances in the future.
“There are more benefits to adding a second unit,” DeHaven said. “When we do, we hope to make it more public contact… and be more community medicine.”
Many departments in big cities implement this benefit — often referred to as community paramedicine — for the community, which basically gets EMTs more into the public sphere to help with follow-up and public education. DeHaven said they can use a second rig to be able to do things such as go into the senior center and take blood pressure, or give talks and educational seminars to the public. Hospitals will often use this feature as well to reduce the number of patients returning to the facility in a certain amount of time for certain illnesses, by having the agency check in on folks.
“It helps relieve the hospitals a little and is a good use of agency personnel,” DeHaven said. “We have been looking for ways to get in on that and this is one of the first ways we can.”
On the ambulance is 25-year-old Cole Green and 34-year-old Jonathan Grillo, both with their own history in the fire service.
Green has been working with Carson’s wildland team since 2012, following in this family’s footsteps — his dad was in the fire service in East Fork, uncles in Tahoe Douglas and two of his cousins are currently with Carson City.
“I come from a background of fire family so I always wanted to do it… I grew up with that, I grew up in the firehouse, so it is something I have always been familiar with and saw doing,” Green said. “This is a great step into the medical field with patient contact and keep extending myself into a career at a great place.”
Green said he hopes working on the BLS ambulance will help propel him into a fire career with Carson City.
“The end goal is to be a firefighter on the line here, to be in Carson,” Green said. “Working as a seasonal before, I saw how things were here and I felt like this was a place for me and I saw a great opportunity to come back and start on this side of things.”
Grillo, on the other hand worked as a firefighter/paramedic for several years before coming to Carson.
The Santa Rosa native lived in Gardnerville for several years before starting a career with Susanville Fire Department as a driver/operator for three years.
“But we have a 1-year-old and one on the way and we just love this area, it is where we wanted to raise kids,” Grillo said. “So I took this position because I love this area and the end game is to be a paramedic/firefighter with Carson.”
After being on the job for nearly five months, both men love their new position.
“It has been fantastic, honest I can’t think of a downside because we are so young in this, so every part is a learning experience,” Green said. “The best part is helping the community and it is improving our skill set for a career here.”
“It has been good, Cole is a good dude and we get along well which is good since it is just us two,” Grillo added. “I didn’t know who my partner would be but it has been good, we really learn from each other.”
The patient care aspect required by the job is one of the best parts for both of the men.
“You get to have that contact with them for hours with the transports, so it a huge experience that lots don’t get to do with that patient contact and helping folks,” Grillo said.
For both men, though they’re on the BLS ambulance, they’re treated no differently in the firehouse.
“The career guys have taken us in and we feel like we fit in here,” Green said.
Green said they still have opportunities to learn from the career firefighters who are always willing to provide feedback and support.
“Sometimes we respond with an engine and we get to work with these guys, we do our stuff and have them evaluate our patient care and assessments,” Green said. “They give us advice and because we are more integrated with them, we can see how they interpret something and it makes us think more when we do our thing.”