Tybee Island Fire Department operating as emergency medical service

Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 3:53 PM EDT
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - Since July the Tybee Island Fire Department has officially been operating as an emergency medical service in the state. This means the crew carries lifesaving medicine and new equipment that they weren’t licensed to carry before.

Special Operations Captain, Matt Bowen, says having these tools and capabilities has made the crew here more confident when responding to medical calls and that they’ve been able to help people much better.

“The community is actually really, I would say, impressed with what we carry now and what we can and can’t do,” Captain Matt Bowen said.

The license took six months for the department to secure. But, it didn’t take much time at all to prove its value to the island.

“It helps us to provide much better care than what we could previously provide.”

Captain Bowen says it pays off on things like diabetic emergencies, which he says are one of their most frequent calls.

“When their blood sugar drops relatively low, we now carry medications in our trucks that can bring that blood sugar back up and we can have them alert and talking in a matter of minutes.”

And there’s so many other types of medications they carry now as well, like pain killers. Bowen says one of the things that’s been great on calls are their new cardiac monitors. The monitor helps them stop big heart problems early by checking for irregular heartbeats.

“We can now put them on that cardiac monitor and if it is a heart attack or something to that extent we can now tell earlier and let EMS know and let the hospitals know.”

All of these tools are to help them stabilize patients before an ambulance arrives. Bowen says this work makes a key difference when they hand patients over to Chatham Emergency Services who run the ambulances that take patients to the hospital.

“When we first actually kicked off the program and started carrying our IV supplies and things like that, they would actually be happy that we had already established an IV or already given medication or already ran a cardiac strip they were happy that we were able to do that.”

Bowen, who was at the department before they had the license, says he’s seen first-hand how beneficial this has been for his own department.

“It also gives the firefighters and EMTs a little boost of confidence as well because they’re now being able to use those skills that they trained for and got certified in and can now show off that talent and that knowledge.”

Bowen says they do now require everyone on staff to be a certified EMT at the bare minimum. They can then choose if they’d like to climb up the ladder to get more certifications and reach the paramedic level.