When Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighters from Station 67 in Beaverton arrive at the Howard Terpenning Recreation Complex, they have limited information about an unconscious 80-year-old man who lacks a pulse and is not breathing.
In this particular training scenario, a witness discovered the sudden cardiac arrest victim in a room and ran to a nearby office to call 911.
As the crew rushes to the patient’s side, firefighters know their assigned roles. A paramedic is designated as the person in charge, a second paramedic will administer medications, and an emergency medical technician will immediately begin chest compressions while the other firefighter EMT is responsible for airway management and helping the patient to breathe.
They move with purpose in these first crucial minutes, providing lifesaving CPR, electrical shocks to the heart and medical treatment to bring the patient back to life.
Their equipment tracks their performance, giving them instant feedback on the effectiveness of their chest compressions while also monitoring the patient’s heart rhythm.
Throughout the month of May and the beginning of June, every TVF&R crew will be dispatched to a sudden cardiac arrest simulation at a facility in their community to practice high-performance CPR.
The District is partnering with various businesses, the Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency, local law enforcement agencies, and ambulance service providers to provide more realistic training scenarios to emergency responders.
“We want to make sure we are all on the same page and look at the system as a whole to positively affect the survivability of cardiac arrest patients,” said Jeff Campbell, a TVF&R training officer. “This is a new training model for us.
“Traditionally, crews train together in their stations and we hold simulations at our training center and rotate crews in and out. They know what to expect. Having them respond to an unknown location in the community and having actors there, makes these simulations more realistic.”
It also allows 911 dispatchers, law enforcement agencies and the facilities hosting the training exercises to evaluate their safety protocols and response practices.
“We learn the most from realistic training, and our community partners play a critical role in saving lives,” said Training Division Chief Brent VanKeulen.
As part of the exercises, a witness calls 911. An emergency dispatcher notifies firefighters and law enforcement officers of the cardiac emergency and activates TVF&R’s PulsePoint application, which informs nearby citizen responders willing to perform CPR that their assistance is needed.
The emergency dispatcher then provides hands-only CPR instruction over the phone to the witness as he or she provides chest compressions to the patient until a police officer arrives with an automated external defibrillator or the TVF&R crew arrives.
High-performance CPR is one of many tools TVF&R crews use to improve survival rates of cardiac arrest patients, said EMS Division Chief Mark Stevens. TVF&R has highly skilled paramedics, specialized drugs, and advanced heart monitors with EKG capability on every unit. Firefighter paramedics can assess if someone’s heart is failing and begin immediate treatment on scene.
“Being able to train with our community partners is fantastic,” Stevens said. “It’s good for all of us. It helps our partners to know what to expect when our crews arrive and develops relationships before an emergency happens. It also provides our crews with valuable training to enhance their ability to effectively respond to cardiac emergencies in our community and ultimately improve patient outcomes."