North Tahoe firefighters get new carbon monoxide device
December 11, 2009
TAHOE CITY, Calif. and#8212; Firefighters have just gained a step-up in the fight against carbon monoxide poisoning.
The North Tahoe Fire Protection District recently purchased a machine that detects the amount of carbon monoxide inside a person’s blood stream. The device, labeled the Rad-57, enables firefighters to accurately diagnose victims of carbon monoxide poisoning and inspect buildings for emissions.
and#8220;Until now we had nothing to definitively determine if people had been exposed to carbon monoxide,and#8221; said Dan Hopwood, captain-paramedic. Hopwood said each year the district gets numerous calls about the deadly substance because of Lake Tahoe’s mountainous geography, older homes and snow insulation.
The gas, which is colorless, odorless and tasteless, is very similar to the properties of air, making it hard to detect. It is emitted from fuel burning appliances and causes flu-like symptoms with the exception of fever.
According to the Center for Disease Control Prevention’s National Center for Environment Health, accidental CO poisoning kills 500 Americans every year with 40,000 yearly emergency room visits, 15,200 of those requiring hospital admission.
Within the North Tahoe area, Hopwood said there have been seven fatalities, six critical cases and three-to-four multi-casual incidents, within the past eight years.
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and#8220;We’re just training our crews on it now and getting permission from our EMS agency to use the device,and#8221; said Hopwood, who expects firefighters to be using the detector as soon as January.
The device will also help firefighters and paramedics to know where to send victims.
and#8220;It just give us one more tool in the tool box; and it speeds up the whole triage process,and#8221; Hopwood said.
He explained that with accurate readings, paramedics can immediately detect patients with high CO readings. Medical crews then know these patients will need transport to Sacramento to be put in a hyperbaric chamber for oxygen therapy.
Hopwood said he and the rest of the department have been looking forward to purchasing this device for a long time. before the purchase, the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District in Incline Village was the only community within the Tahoe basin with a similar device.