For the third year in a row, the Denver Fire Department (DFD) has received grant money from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, which is a division of the Department of Homeland Security.
U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-10) recently awarded the $65,360 grant to the DFD which will be used for firefighter gear, a second thermal imaging camera, portable radios and a first for a fire department in the area according to DFD battalion chief Dion Burleson: six portable carbon monoxide pulse oximeters.
Burleson called receiving the new oximeters â€œsignificant. A big deal.â€
â€œUntil very recently, the only way carbon monoxide was found in a patientâ€™s body was through a painful and time-consuming test at a hospital that involved drawing arterial blood through a patientâ€™s wrist at a 90-degree angle,â€ said Burleson, adding the test isnâ€™t available at all hospitals. â€œSome hospital have to send blood samples to an off-site lab to get tested and it could take up to 15 hours for results.â€
Burleson said California-based Masimo Corporation released the new carbon monoxide detecting devices that works using the same principle as the oxygen sensors healthcare workers place on a patientâ€™s fingers, therefore cutting down on the time it takes to determine levels of the gas known as CO in the bloodstream.
â€œCO is a gas produced by the combination of carbon containing fuels or the inadequate ventilation of natural gas,â€ said Burleson. â€œIt prevents the oxygen from reaching tissues in the body and presents an array of symptoms that mimic other illnesses.â€
Burleson said CO can be deadly if enough of the gas gets into a personâ€™s bloodstream. Everyone carries a small amount of CO in the body, with smokers carrying more than other people.
â€œThese meters will allow for instant and accurate readings of CO in a victimâ€™s body,â€ said Burleson. â€œIt will prove invaluable in the assessment of a patient that present the symptoms of CO poisoning.â€ Burleson added the new meters will instantly differentiate between CO poisoning and a standard illness, also determining the severity of CO poisoning if the gas is present.
In addition to the patients the DFD are called out to assist with Lincoln County EMS, the meters will be a valuable tool on the scene of fires in the rehabilitation of exhausted firefighters.
â€œSmoke in these fires contain CO as well,â€ said Burleson. â€œWhen the smoke is very minimal during the final stages of firefighting, firefighters can still fall victim to CO.â€
The new meters wonâ€™t alarm firefighters there is a problem until the meter reads 10 percent of CO.
Burleson said to his knowledge, DFD is the first agency in the region to have CO meters. Currently, the department is working with Lincoln County EMS to put the meters into service.
â€œAs soon as there is a protocol set in place and there is some supplemental education given to EMS personnel, these devices are scheduled to go into service.â€
One of the conditions of receiving the AFG grant is that the DFD has to pay five percent of the total grant award amount.
Since 2004, the DFD has received more than $353,000 in AFG monies: theyâ€™ve paid more than $17,000 to receive the money.
Burleson said itâ€™s a small price to pay for the protection citizens in the Denver fire district are receiving.
For the 2006 grant, the DFD paid $3,268.
â€œThis represents a 2,000 percent return on the communityâ€™s investment through paying taxes,â€ said Burleson. â€œOur goal at DFD is to provide the best level of service we can in the most responsible and effective financial means that we can.â€
McHenry said east Lincoln is one of the fastest growing areas in the 10th district.
â€œIâ€™m pleased the Denver Fire Department has received these funds to enable the department to continue meeting the needs of such a developing area,â€ said McHenry. â€œThe grant will allow firefighters to improve their ability to save lives.â€
For more information on the grant, call the Denver Fire Department at (704) 483-5115.
by Jon Mayhew