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Prevention: Fire department more than just fighting fires

Zach McDaniel and Josh Miller, Fort Rucker firefighters, demonstrate proper CPR techniques on a training manikin at the Fort Rucker Fire Station last year. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Zach McDaniel and Josh Miller, Fort Rucker firefighters, demonstrate proper CPR techniques on a training manikin at the Fort Rucker Fire Station last year. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: May 5, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 5, 2016) -- When people think of fire fighters, they tend to immediately think of fire trucks, axes and water hoses, but Fort Rucker firefighters are more than just that.

The primary role of the Fort Rucker Fire Department is to provide protection for service members, family members, contractors and visitors to the installation, said Jeremy Evett, Fort Rucker fire chief.

But there is more to being a firefighter than just fighting fires, he added.

The fire department is responsible for responses to basically any type of emergency – structural fires, aircraft fires or crashes, confined space rescues, emergency medical responses, hazardous material responses, and, most recently, emergency water responses because of the increased activities on the lakes during the warmer months, said the fire chief.

“We like to think that we’re more than just (fighting fires),” Evett said. “We also provide a myriad of services to the community by providing things like child car seat installation certification for new parents, blood pressure checks for people, and even provide CPR and AED instruction for different units on post.”

About once a month, the department will head out to different facilities and set up blood pressure check stations to help bring awareness on the importance of staying healthy and up-to-date on well-being.

“We just want to be able to help and sometimes we might be able to discover a problem that somebody wasn’t aware of,” he said.

The fire department is also committed to outreach, in addition to their normal duties, said Evett. One of the biggest outreach events it conducts is Fire Prevention Week, which occurs in October.

“That’s a big push for us because we dedicate a week to visiting with the schools on post, the commissary and other facilities to promote fire safety,” because the easiest fire to put out is the one that never gets started, he said.

This type of outreach and providing services such as the CPR training are important because first responders and emergency personnel can only provide their services when they arrive on the scene of an emergency, and in life or death situations, Evett said precious seconds matter.

“When an emergency happens, depending on the situation, you don’t have a lot of time to respond,” said the fire chief. “The individual who has been trained in those skills is more confident and is more readily available to provide that critical incident response long before any emergency services that have been contacted can get there. That time can make the difference between life and death.”

Evett recalled a story at one of the installation newcomers briefings where an elderly woman began to complain that she wasn’t feeling well and, before anyone could react, the woman had fallen to the ground.

“Luckily, two of my inspectors were there and performed CPR on her, and were able to revive her. By the time the ambulance arrived, she was alert and conscious,” he said. “Without that quick action, the consequences could have been dire for her. It’s for situations like that that we do this.”

Evett said the woman was lucky that trained professionals were there to help her, but that might not always be the case, which is why it’s important to educate the public on things they can do to help before emergency responders can arrive.

“We want people to be prepared,” he said. “Should they experience an emergency, they would have the knowledge to know what to do and have the confidence to be able to do it.”

For the most part, Fort Rucker is a quiet installation, but despite that fact, Evett said the fire department is ready to respond at a moment’s notice.

“Through our fire prevention office, we conduct a lot of the outreach and education to the general public, so essentially, we put out more fires on this installation before they happen than we ever have to respond to,” he said. “Fire prevention is a very important part of that. We’re fortunate here that we have a good team and we have a great community with great patrons and occupants on the installation who are all doing the right thing.”

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