The Life-Saving Tools Behind Every Rescue

As small children we idolize our emergency workers, and apparently that’s one thing we never quite grow out of. We’ve all “rubber necked” at accident scenes as we’ve walked or driven past. Television programs and movies featuring fire and emergency medical personnel almost always rank high with viewers. But unless you either had the fortune to either train with or pay an extensive visit to your local emergency rescue unit, or you’ve had the misfortune to need their assistance, you probably don’t know just what kind of life-saving tools are regularly used by our favorite heroes. From high-tech GPS units to EKG machines that can send info to a physician’s smartphone, to old standbys like immobilization devices and the “jaws of life,” today’s ambulance supplies make sure each and every unit is more than just a rolling first aid kit.

  • GPS – From dispatch systems that automatically know the address of the land line you call from, to positioning systems that can tell the operator where you are within 50 meters, to transponders on the vehicles themselves, GPS plays a large part in today’s emergency medical field. Enhanced 911 systems can supply your physical address just from the phone number you are calling from, if you are calling from a land line phone, that is. If not, then some systems can take your mobile signal and pinpoint your location to within a few meters. Then, some ambulance units have their own signal that tell the operator just where they are, and their condition–”Ready”, “In Transit”, “Returning to Base”–so that the closest available unit can be dispatched to your emergency. All of this technology works together to drastically shorten response times.
  • Mobile EKG to Phone – Mobile EKG units often have a feature that allows the paramedic on the scene to transmit information to the smartphone of the cardiologist on duty at the hospital. He can make decisions and diagnoses before the patient even hits the road. This can cut as much as 30  minutes off the time a patient has to wait before a life-saving procedure such as a heart catheterization or by pass surgery. The cardio team can be assembled and ready to go the minute the patient arrives. With many emergency medical agencies responding to as many as 3 cardiac calls a day, those little smart machines have the potential to save hundreds of lives a month!
  • Jaws of Life – This little pneumatic device has been around for a long time, but it never goes out of style. Basically a pair of pliers on steroids, the jaws can crack open a jammed car door in no time. They are also used to peel back the roof  of a smashed up vehicle like a key opening a can of sardines. And while they may not be new, they have been made safer to use, lighter and easier to handle, and more powerful.

It is our wish that the closest you have to come to an ambulance is the display unit at the next Safety Week. But whether as a viewer or patient, you can be safe in the knowledge that ambulance supplies, even the First Aid kits, have come a long way in their efforts to save lives.

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