If you have a medical emergency and just dialed 911 for help — there are now more emergency personnel on the retrieving end to help you if you live in Brainerd.
Not only will emergency medical technicians (EMT) from North Memorial Ambulance Service and Brainerd police officers assist you — but now Brainerd firefighters also will assist in helping those with emergency medical needs.
Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek said that the Brainerd Fire Department started responding to medical calls about three weeks ago. Stunek said all the Brainerd firefighters are EMT and paramedic certified and are trained to respond to medicals.
Stunek and Kevin Lee, manager of North Memorial Ambulance Brainerd Region, have been discussing having firefighters assist North Memorial on medicals for a few months.
“We (North Memorial) are getting more calls and at any one time any of us (ambulance, police or fire) can be very busy,” said Lee. “With this system in place, it will allow first responders to get to the scene of the medical more quickly.”
Lee said he worked 15 years for the ambulance service in Fargo, N.D., before coming to Brainerd and Fargo had the same system in place, where all the entities of ambulance service, police and fire responded to medicals.
“I’m a big advocate to this system,” said Lee. “It allows faster first responder time that gives the patient better services.”
Lee said that North Memorial has ambulance services in Brainerd, Crosslake and Pine River, and between the three services, they average about 16 calls a day, with about 12-13 transports to hospitals.
“We’re about 80 calls ahead of last year,” said Lee. “Having the extra help, such as loading a patient on the stretcher, is great because this can be challenging at times. Our staff appreciates the extra help.”
Lee said North Memorial in Brainerd has three ambulance crews, with each crew consisting of one paramedic and one EMT. During the day, there are two crews in the station and a third crew is on-call. At night, there is one crew in the station and two crews on-call. In Crosslake and Pine River, there is one ambulance crew in each city.
Stunek said “North Memorial is getting busier and busier and we have the training to help them. North asked us to help and we are assisting them.
“With this partnership, it increases the survival rate for the patients and that is important.”
Stunek said since firefighters began assisting North Memorial, they’ve been averaging about three to four calls a day. Stunek said fire calls take priority over the medical calls. However, Stunek said each call would be evaluated.For instance, if firefighters are at a serious medical call and then they get a fire call and North Memorial has not yet responded to the medical, firefighters could have one firefighter stay with the medical until North Memorial arrived and the other firefighter respond to the fire call.
Stunek said so far, going on medical calls has been positive.
Stunek said firefighters are not paid any more money to respond to medicals, as it is part of their full-time equipment operator job descriptions. Where the cost comes into play, is the fuel and maintenance cost of the fire trucks.
“Our (fire) budget has been able to absorb the fuel cost,” said Stunek. “We have not seen any constraints on the budget with our firefighters responding to medical calls.
“We, as department heads, manage our costs and if fuel costs $400 and can save one life, I think it is worth it.”
Stunek said this is the first time in Brainerd Fire history that they have responded to medicals and the first few months will be a trial to see how it goes.
“So far it is working and if it goes well we may expand to the Baxter area.”