By Kyle LoJacono
Hillsborough County Fire Rescue has taken several steps to help treat sudden heart conditions, and the department was recently recognized for its efforts as one of the best in the country.
The department was given the 2011 Heart Safe Community Award at the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) national award ceremony in May. Hillsborough won the top honor for large communities, population of more than 100,000 people.
It is the first time the department has been given the honor, making it even more rewarding for interim fire chief Ron Rogers.
“I am proud of our Fire Rescue team for their commitment to train on and teach the latest techniques to save those with heart problems,” Rogers said. “The relationships we have built in our community benefit the patient from before we get to the scene through the definitive care they receive in the hospital.”
The annual award ceremony focuses on departments that have used creative approaches to increasing safety by treating and preventing cardiac-related diseases. Hillsborough Fire Rescue also had to show how it improved the quality of its out-of-hospital intervention techniques.
In a release, the IAFC states that, “Hillsborough County Fire Rescue stood out by developing and implementing several creative elements to their program, including a community-wide bystander CPR training program that resulted in 10,000 Hillsborough County ninth-grade students being trained in CPR.”
The IAFC, which is made up of representatives from fire rescue and EMS departments across the country, also pointed to the department’s use of technology to track and review heart attack outcomes while cataloging the attacks and their locations in the county. During the last year, more than 1,000 cardiac-arrest related incidents were reported and that data was shared with area hospitals to improve response time in the future.
David Travis, interim assistant fire chief, said the department has worked for years to improve its response time and treatment of heart attacks within the county.
“The citizens of Hillsborough County should take pride and be reassured that cardiac care in our community is among the best anywhere in the nation,” Travis said. “This award represents years of work that has truly been a community effort with the local physicians, hospital personnel and most recently the school board.”
Travis said the board allowed the department to teach CPR to public school students, which was one of the elements that separated Hillsborough Fire Rescue from other groups in the country. The training has been adopted as part of the curriculum for county schools.
“We couldn’t have done it without the school board’s help,” Travis reiterated. “Not only did we teach 10,000 students how to properly give CPR, but it was young people who will grow up with the knowledge and can teach it to others.”
The department covers all unincorporated areas of Hillsborough, which include Lutz and Odessa. Hillsborough Fire Rescue’s 42 stations serve 909 square miles, 84 percent of the county, and 832,340 citizens.
For more information on the department, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org/firerescue/ or call (813) 272-6600.
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