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  • Writer's pictureLucas Nava

Joliet fire chief: 'there are just not enough people to meet those needs'

Fire Chief Jeff Carey gave a presentation on the Joliet Fire Department's CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) programs to the City Council on Jan. 17. At the time, Joliet was celebrating Community Risk Reduction Week in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so Carey discussed how the aforementioned programs were a part of their community risk reduction plan. This plan involves identifying current local issues by noting what kind of calls the department responds to and developing programs to reduce related risks. While the larger county and area have multiple programs available, it can be difficult for the public to locate them.

The Fire Department has multiple active community risk reduction programs, including ones focused on mental health, fire prevention and fire safety inspection. Carey said the department already has seen a decrease in its mental health calls. The department is focusing on the "community paramedicine program", which Carey views as the future of health care in America. It's aimed at addressing health care worker shortages and increasing general safety knowledge in the community.

"With the amount of health care shortages that we have now with nurses, doctors and mental health care workers, there are just not enough people to meet those needs," Carey said. "There are community paramedicine programs now where it's a different training. If we start our own, we can bridge that gap in health care where it's much needed. We look at our calls, about 20% of our ambulance calls, the people don't actually need to go to the E.R. With the community paramedicine program, we can sell those issues at home, saving our taxpayers thousands of dollars in the health care system."

One of the most significant causes of the low survival rate for CPR patients is that there is often no CPR administered before first responders arrive on the scene. Over the last few years, the Joliet Fire Department has advanced its CPR protocols, increasing its training regimen and buying additional equipment to ensure that first responders are always performing quality CPR.

These actions increased the overall CPR survival rate to approximately 80%. The Fire Department has been teaching CPR and AED classes for citizens, and its newest initiative is offering free training to all employees of a business that purchases and installs an AED inside of its building. This is expected to increase the medical response, training and available equipment for the whole community.

The Fire Department also is cataloging all of the AEDs in the community so that 911 dispatchers can locate them and, in an emergency, instruct callers on where they are and how to use them.

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