With Napoleon emergency medical service (EMS) crews responding to more calls for service over the last several years, that personnel is more important than ever.
Since 2011, Napoleon Fire and Rescue has seen a 40% increase in patients aged 50 or older, which resulted in 378 more calls for service by 2018.
“Overall, we’ve seen an increase of 60% in calls for service, both on the EMS and fire side,” said Napoleon Fire Chief Clayton O’Brien. “In Napoleon, 80% of our calls for service are EMS.”
So far this year, the fire station has received 519 total calls, which is about 50 less than this point last year, but some of the reduction is likely due to regulations put in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
In 2018, the most recent numbers available, the department received 1,609 calls for service.
The department has a total of 30 EMS providers on staff, though that also includes volunteers. O’Brien said training requirements result in six months to become an emergency medical technician (EMT) while it takes 18 months to become a paramedic.
In Napoleon, anyone working full-time for the city’s fire and rescue needs to be both a firefighter and a paramedic. There are currently 10 of those on staff, including O’Brien and Assistant Fire Chief Joel Frey.
Paramedics allow the city to provide advanced life support (ALS) services to residents in a medical emergency, rather than just basic life support (BLS) services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has limited some of the ability to train volunteers.
“We can do online training, but can’t do anything in person right now,” O’Brien said.
He added that could cause the department to lose some volunteers, which he said is a concern of his.
“The biggest change for us is the amount of PPE (personal protection equipment) we have to wear on calls,” O’Brien said of how the pandemic has changed operations for EMS.
“Our response really other than that has been business as usual, because we’ve been dealing with communicable diseases for a long time,” O’Brien said.
One of the harder aspects, according to the chief, has been the social distancing aspect, which also led the city to create a secondary, temporary station at the St. Paul Lutheran Youth Center.
“We’re like a family at the fire department so we’re not used to being six-feet apart,” O’Brien said.
He added this has led to some changes in the station, specifically the kitchen area, where seating was spread out more.
“Morale’s been really great though, and I’m super proud of our area,” O’Brien said. “I think it’s really a victory for us if we are able to get out of this without either the fire station or police station being hit by this (pandemic).”