What do firefighters do? The modern Fire Department may need a new name as their mission has changed drastically from being primarily focused on fires. "All Emergencies Department" might come closer to the mission performed by your modern local Fire Department. In order to help you understand the services performed and available to the citizens of Torrance by your local Fire Department, here are a few of the things your Torrance Firefighters are involved in and some of the equipment they are required to be experts with:
1. Emergency Medical Services.
In addition to being trained in all manner of Fire and Rescue emergency response, a proficient and competent paramedic has 1500 hours of intensive medical training along with approximately a minimum of one year of field experience. These are a few of the equipment and intervention specialties that your Torrance Fire Department's paramedics are involved with.
a. Automatic External Defibrillator (A.E.D.) - This device is used to electrically shock a heart attack victim to regain a normal heartbeat. You might find this device in your business, school, airport, or public facility as it was designed to be used by the public after some training. All Torrance fighters have annual performance testing to maintain their skills and knowledge in the use of this device.
b. 12 lead Electrocardiogram - This equipment allows us to determine in the field if a patient is having a heart attack. By knowing this a hospital can already be set up for a life saving treatment when the patients arrives. Performing this complicated diagnosing procedure prior to transporting the patient to the hospital means the patient receives life saving treatment much faster when they arrive at the Hospital.
c. Fast Magnesium Study - This pilot program is testing the effects of a new drug to be used in the field and at the hospital to minimize the permanent effects of a stroke. The Torrance Fire Department has entered more patients in this critical study than all but two cities in Los Angeles County. Only Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County Fire Departments have enrolled more study patients.
d. ST Elevated Myocardial Infarction. - A very fancy term for a heart attack with very specific training and protocols required to rapidly save lives.
e. Intubation - this is the process of putting a tube down a patient's throat and in to their trachea to ensure that they have a protected airway.
f. Pulse Oximetry - This equipment enables the paramedics to determine how much oxygen is available in the patient's blood stream to perfuse the cells and vital organs. This information helps determine the course of treatment.
g. End Tidal CO2 monitoring - This equipment helps ensure that an advanced airway placed by paramedics has not been dislodged and has been place appropriately. This information can also assist a paramedic by determining the effectiveness of the treatment being given.
h. CPAP - Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. This equipment has long been used in the hospitals for patients who are having difficulty breathing. It is now available for our paramedics to use outside the hospital. Those patients having difficulty breathing can now be treated much sooner and have much shorter hospital stays as a result.
i. External pacing - This would allow the paramedics to attach an external pacemaker to a patient whose heart is beating too slowly. This will assist the patient's heart until they are able to have a pacemaker implanted at the hospital.
j. Intraosseous IV - You may be familiar with an Intra Venous (IV) catheterization. A needle inserted into a vein to provide access for drugs and fluids. This procedure works the same way, but the needle is inserted into a bone. Although this may seem brutal and painful, it is not. This enables paramedics to start an IV in a babies shin (tibia) bone or an adult whose veins are inaccessible or when traditional IV locations are not working. This would allow paramedics to give needed life saving medicines and fluids in situations where that would have been impossible.
These are just some of the many skills required of our fire fighters and paramedics to ensure that they can save the Torrance citizens who are having a medical emergency or have had a traumatic injury.
2. Fire Fighting Services and Equipment
a. Wildland/Urban Interface firefighting
b. Vegetation Management / Brush Inspections
c. Positive Pressure Self Contained Breathing Apparatus certification and training
d. Rapid Intervention Crews (RIC) - These crews and equipment are set up at all structure fires. Their purpose is to save any firefighters that get hurt or lost inside the burning structure.
e. Thermal Imaging - These are special cameras that are used to find victims inside of a smoke filled building or to find fire that is traveling inside a wall.
f. Mutual and Automatic Aid to surrounding Cities
g. Smoke Detectors
h. Carbon Monoxide Monitoring
i. High rise firefighting - This type of firefighting requires special tactics and training to deal with the large scale of the event.
j. Industrial and Chemical firefighting
k. Residential firefighting
a. Anti-terrorism Training
b. Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)
c. Tactical medicine and Police/SWAT interoperability
4. Specialized Responses
a. Technical Rescue - Urban Search and Rescue - This includes any sort of special rescue operation. Including Confined space, trench or high angle rescue.
b. Hazmat - This training prepares firefighters to be ready to respond to a chemical related emergency be it big or small.
c. Auto Extrication - this is where the "Jaws of Life" and many other specialized tools are used to get people out of cars that are so damaged they are stuck inside.
d. Safe Houses - This means that anyone that feels they are in danger can come to a fire station for protection.
e. Safe Surrender Site - This allows people to drop off their unwanted new born baby at a fire station without any risk of reprisal.
f. SWAT Assistance - When these teams are called out paramedics go with them to assist any injured civilians or SWAT team members.
g. Killer Bees
h. Auto or Home Lock out
5. Community Services
a. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) - This team of civilians is taught by the fire dept how to assist the fire dept in case of a major catastrophe.
b. Basic Aid Training (BAT) - These skills are taught to all Torrance 5th graders
c. Exit Drills in the Home (EDITH) - These skills are also taught to all Torrance 5th graders
d. Public Education
e. Disaster Preparedness
f. CPR Training - These skills are taught to all Torrance 9th graders
g. Auxiliary Program - This is a volunteer program to help give hands on experience to people who what to get in to the fire service.
h. Computer Aided Dispatch - This software allows dispatch to send critical information to a computer screen located in each of the responding units. This also includes a GPS system to ensure that the units arrive on scene of the emergency ASAP.
i. Fire Safety Officer - This person's job is to ensure that all the community services mentioned above run smoothly. As well as answer any related questions that citizens may have concerning these subjects.
6. Professional Development
a. Sensitivity Training - This helps people in the fire service more effectively help people who are grieving over the loss of a loved one or in any of the other many emotionally charged calls that they can find themselves on.
b. Computer Proficiency - as with any job now a days computer skills are a very helpful skill to have.
c. College Degrees in multiple related subjects
d. Incident Command Classes - This education helps prepare the firefighters on how to build a Command Structure for very large incidents as well as teaching firefighters what their role would be in one of these incidents.
e. Fire Officer Certification - With this certification our Officers are better prepared to lead their men and women on the infinite number of different types of calls they go on.
As you can see from all the above information, the days of firefighters sitting around the fire station, playing cards, and waiting for a fire are long gone. The modern day fire service requires that firefighters have a high level of knowledge, skill, education and continuous training to be able to respond and effectively deal with any emergency that arises in the city of Torrance.