As we all know, firefighters respond to more emergencies than burning buildings. That's why firefighters in Burton, South Carolina, are taking some extra steps to help them save lives. The Burton Fire District took it upon itself to get all its firefighters certified as EMTs, which requires a lot of extra training.
Burton firefighters respond to thousands of calls each year and every minute counts.
"Every minute that a person's in cardiac arrest, their chance of survival drops every minute you don't correct the airway or you don't correct the rhythm disturbance," said medical officer Randy Wells.
Although there were times when the firefighters arrived on scene first, they didn't have the qualifications to administer certain life-saving procedures.
"There were, on occasions, times when our firefighters would get on scene and they were capable, they had the training to do a higher level of intervention, but couldn't," said Chief Harry Rountree.
That's before all the firefighters on the department went above and beyond the call of duty, trained and then received certification as emergency medical technicians, literally putting more tools in their toolbox.
"We can intubate patients, secure airways, with advanced airway training. We can defibrillate patients, try to correct heart rhythms in case of a heart attack," said Wells.
In order to get this certification, firefighters had to take more than 140 extra hours of training. But most of them will tell you it was worthwhile.
"There are a lot of medical responses we go on," said Lt. Robert Anderson. "Not only do we have fire training but medical training as part of our job. With the advanced training, it really makes us feel comfortable on a scene that we can help out."
Burton firefighters will of course still be working hand in hand with the county's EMS department to make sure everyone in the county gets the care they need in an emergency. In fact, officials with EMS say this extra training will be really helpful on emergency scenes in case they arrive first.
The Bluffton Fire Department has also taken this extra step.