By Marilyn Noble
The Cunningham Fire Protection District hosted its annual EMS Open House on May 25 at Station 63 in Centennial. Over 300 residents attended the event, where they were treated to hot dogs, sodas and the chance to mingle with the district’s paramedics and fire fighters.
According to Tony Palato, a paramedic and the event’s organizer, the emergency workers enjoy the opportunity to meet the people they serve.
“The chief loves to work with the public,” he said, “And I love to work with the kids. I really relish the opportunity to be a part of this.”
Visitors learned about a wide range of topics like how 911 works, and how to accident-proof their homes. The AirLife helicopter made an appearance, and paramedics explained the various tools inside the ambulance. Chief Ira Rhodes even got into the act, explaining to one family how the ventilation system keeps diesel fumes out of the firehouse.
“I just love this,” said Rhodes. “We have such a great team of people, and we enjoy this day very much.”
The Cunningham District serves two geographic “islands”—one covers about four square miles of unincorporated Arapahoe County near the Denver County line, and the other covers 16 square miles of the eastern end of Centennial. The 22 paramedics use two ambulances, with a third scheduled for delivery in September.
“Most of our calls are medical—things like seizures or diabetic problems,” said Capt. Ralph Vickrey, EMS coordinator. “We don’t have as much that’s alcohol related, but we do see lots of kids’ traumas. We get quite a few skateboard and bike accidents.”
For that reason, the crew at the station was passing out children’s bike helmets and a bicycling safety manual in addition to the whistles, fire hats and badges.
Vickrey also explained how the crew responds when they receive an emergency call. Each paramedic has a pager, radio and Nextel radio/cell phone, and each ambulance is equipped with computers that allow the crew to check on which emergency rooms are accepting patients. They can also check a medical database that details drug interactions, dosages and other critical information.
“We transport to whichever hospital the patient requests,” said Vickrey, “If they don’t have a preference, we go to the closest emergency room that can handle the situation. We’re anxiously awaiting the completion of the new HealthONE and Centura hospitals on the south side of town. That will give us more options.”
Eventually the computer system will be able to provide detailed directions to the scene, display information about the call captured from the 911 system and allow the paramedics to transmit the patient’s vitals and other information to the emergency room. According to Vickrey, video conferencing is the wave of the future, and some day the paramedics will be wearing helmets with cameras that will allow the ER doctors to see the patients as they’re being treated in the ambulance en route to the hospital.
The next event on the Cunningham calendar will be a fire safety open house in the fall. Once again, the public will be invited to visit the station and meet the people who help them out in times of trouble.
“We want the community to know we’re here for them and give them a chance to meet us and see what we’re all about,” said Rhodes.