Philadelphia implements First Responders program

Vicky Newman News Herald
Hold on, they're coming.
Residents of the city of Philadelphia soon will be able to rest easier, in the knowledge that emergency help, if needed, will be forthcoming more quickly.

Philadelphia volunteer firefighters are becoming certified as First Responders, and will be dispatched by 911 Emergency operators when help is needed.

For Philadelphia Fire Chief Jimmy Russell, who officially took the reins of the fire department Jan. 1, First Responder training was a top priority for 2010, the first step of many improvements planned for the department this year.

Russell is a full-time firefighter for the city of Loudon, and a part-time EMT (emergency medical technician) for Rural Metro Ambulance Service. He was recruited last fall by Jimmy Manis, former Philadelphia fire chief, to assume that volunteer role.

Since Russell came on board, the Philadelphia Fire Department has grown, from a dozen or less volunteers to about 25. Some of those volunteers bring considerable skills and training to the table - assets that are desperately needed in the small town. "We have 25 members, and 12 are EMT-IVs, (EMTs that are able to start intravenous lines for treatment)," Russell said. "Rural Metro is coming to help us implement First Responder training. ... to give us the protocols, of what we can and cannot do," Russell said.

he First Responder program requires 64 hours of training, above and beyond the 120 hours of training a year required of volunteer firefighters.

At 6 p.m., a time of day when most people are winding down for the evening, a total of 18 volunteers reported to the fire station at downtown Philadelphia Monday, Jan. 18, for training sessions. They will continue fire training each month, preparing for any contingency. "It is mandatory that we train each month," Russell said. But training and firefighting are only some of the tasks Philadelphia volunteers face in the effort to improve their community. Volunteers also are planning to convert a large, unused room above Philadelphia Town Hall into a station for Rural Metro units. The move will enable Rural Metro to maintain ambulance service units for Philadelphia and nearby, available 24 hours a day, lessening response times. 

Russell said, "Rural Metro responds in Lenoir City and Loudon, but they don't have first responders inside the city of Philadelphia. Everybody has been forgetting Philadelphia."

When medical emergencies happen, minutes and seconds count, Russell said. First Responders will be able to administer basic emergency medical care, keeping the patient alive until ambulances arrive. "Ambulances never get there fast enough," Russell said. "Three minutes might mean the difference between somebody living or dying." 

Brian Howard, Rural Metro Ambulance Service's Loudon County director, said the first responders will be automatically dispatched when emergency response is needed, and will be able to arrive faster than the Rural Metro ambulances coming all the way from Sugarlimb. "Our average response time is 10 to 12 minutes and responding to Stockton Valley can take 20 minutes," Howard said. "This should cut the response time in half.  This will be a good thing for Philadelphia."