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“Autumn is the time of year when Mother Nature says, ‘Look how easy, how healthy, and how beautiful letting go can be.’”
– Toni Sorenson  
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 9 September 2018  

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  Ambulance uncertainty leads to ballot question
  By Robin Widmar

   The Falcon Fire Protection District Board of Directors has approved a November ballot question seeking to increase the district’s mill levy for the purposes of implementing its own ambulance transport service and fulfilling staffing needs.
   
   This decision followed the recommendation of a Public Safety Task Force created to study the district’s budgetary and operational needs. District residents representing different geographical areas and local organizations comprised the task force, which met multiple times over a four-month period. Feedback from a mail survey and town-hall-style meetings contributed to the recommendation.
   
   The issue of ambulance services in El Paso County has been a concern for FFPD for some time. Much attention has been focused on how quickly Falcon-area residents can expect an ambulance with Advanced Life Support capabilities, since most of the Falcon fire district lies within ambulance response zones established by the county’s Emergency Services Authority that allow 20-to 25-minute response times. However, the other concern is simply the uncertainty of future county ambulance services.
   
   Ambulance service for the county is contracted to a private provider through ESA. The current provider, American Medical Response, holds contracts for both the city of Colorado Springs and El Paso County. The city contract was originally set to end on Dec. 31, 2018, while the county contract expires Dec. 31, 2019. According to press releases and local media sources, the city entered negotiations with Priority Ambulance in March but terminated those efforts in July. The city announced it would revise its Request for Proposal and solicit new bids within 18 months. In the meantime, AMR’s contract with the city will be extended.
   
   Since the status of future city and county contracts is unknown, Falcon’s fire board wants to ensure that its residents will have ambulance transport options available when they are needed.
   
   ALS ambulance service: more than just a ride to the hospital
   
   When someone calls 911 to request an ambulance, the fire department also responds to provide patient care until the ambulance arrives. Every Falcon firefighter is cross-trained as an Emergency Medical Technician capable of providing basic life support for a variety of injuries and illnesses. EMTs can give oxygen, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use Automated External Defibrillators, stabilize traumatic injuries and start IVs for intravenous therapy, among many other skills. The FFPD currently has only two firefighters certified for ALS (advanced life support), which is a higher level of pre-hospital care than what EMTs are able to provide.
   
   Each ambulance, whether from AMR or another provider, is staffed with at least one paramedic certified in ALS procedures that include intubation, interpreting cardiac rhythms, administering certain medications and more. Whether fire crews or ambulance personnel arrive first at a medical emergency, patient care and treatment begins at the scene and continues through transport until the patient reaches the hospital.
   
   FFPD statistics consistently demonstrate the response time advantages of having an ALS ambulance in its jurisdiction. AMR currently provides a staffed ambulance that is housed at Falcon Fire Station 1, located at the corner of Meridian Ranch Boulevard and Stapleton Drive. When this ambulance is in Falcon’s fire district, it generally has a significantly faster response time than ambulances responding from outside the district. However, since it is not dedicated solely to Falcon, this ambulance could be dispatched to other calls outside of FFPD’s jurisdiction. In those instances, another ambulance must respond in its place to any calls in the Falcon area, which typically results in a longer response time.
   
   Curtis Kauffman, Falcon firefighter/paramedic, said the ability to quickly have ALS on the scene is important for serious medical emergencies such as difficulty breathing, cardiac problems and severe trauma injuries. While EMTs can perform many life-saving procedures, Kauffman said, “There are limits to what they can do in terms of their training and EMS protocols.” Having an ALS provider with higher levels of EMS skills and training “can make a difference,” he said. Some types of emergencies, such as strokes, require rapid interventions that can only be performed by doctors. Kauffman said in those cases, the time it takes for an ambulance to quickly arrive at the scene and then transport the patient to a hospital can potentially affect the patient’s long-term outcome.
   
   If the voters approve the mill levy increase in November, FFPD will join four other El Paso County fire departments that operate their own ambulance services independent of the ESA contract: Fountain, Security, Black Forest and Tri-Lakes Monument.
  
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  Safety Tip - Bicycle safety for all ages
  By Robin Widmar

   September is National Preparedness Month. Disasters do not plan ahead, but humans can. Being prepared as much as possible in advance of emergencies helps people endure them and recover more quickly.
   
   Here are 10 things that everyone can do to be better prepared for the unexpected:
  • Make an emergency plan that includes evacuation, communications and pets/livestock. Ensure all family members know it, and then practice it.
  • Learn lifesaving skills such as CPR and first aid.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of homes and test them monthly. Change batteries more than a year old. Replace smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.
  • Have enough food, water and medications to last for at least 72 hours.
  • Know how to shut off utilities like water and gas.
  • Review insurance policies and coverage for hazards such as fire and floods.
  • Create an emergency fund to cover expenses like lodging, food and gas after a disaster.
  • Sign up for emergency alerts.
  • Make copies of important documents and store them in a safe place.
  • Create a home fire escape plan, and practice it.

   For complete information and checklists to become better prepared, go to http://ready.gov.
   
   To sign up for emergency alerts in El Paso County, go to https://elpasoteller911.org/ and click on “Emergency Notifications” or “Emergency Notification System.”
   
Stay connected with the FFPD
   Website: http://falconfirepd.org
   Facebook: Falcon Fire Department
   Twitter: @FalconFireDept
  
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