One More Award at Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue

While Capt. Tom at might not be trumpeting his success, I will do it for him, as well as for the rest of my colleagues at Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue.  This week we received another honor, the IAFC's Annual Heart Safe Community Award.  With a lot of pushing and pulling from Capt. Tom Bouthillet, and a lot of support and cooperation from other notables, including Fire Chief Lavarn Lucas, Deputy Chiefs Brad Tadlock and Ed Boring, Capt. Eric Lainhart, our medical control docs, Bo Sherwood and Van Gaube, and of course, Kelly Arashin, we received the award in recognition of the system we have in place in our community.

Between our bystander CPR education efforts, placement of automated defibrillators in the community and our advanced life support response system, individuals experiencing a cardiac event have a significantly better chance of survival than in the past. If an arrest is in progress, we dispatch additional Fire/Rescue companies, where all the line personnel are trained in use of the "pit crew" concept, to maximize the efficiency of assigned resources and to deliver a very high standard of care.  

It doesn't end there: our Fire/Rescue personnel have a number of tools we can use, including 12-lead EKG monitoring with transmission capability and the ability to provide therapeutic hypothermia if indicated.  Our system is also capable of identifying possible STEMI patients in the field and setting off an additional chain of events.

Our delivery of the patient at the Hilton Head Hospital Emergency Department is just one more step.  There, they will have already been alerted by the teams in the field and depending on the situation, have either already brought in a cath lab team, or are prepared to continue therapeutic hypothermia through as needed.  We have a great relationship with our emergency department personnel and we all work together as a team to provide the best possible chances for a positive outcome.

What's more is that the pertinent information is documented and shared through the CARES Registry, where we will be able to extrapolate data needed to help us improve our service.  We have identified methods for communicating good performance as well as performance requiring remediation.  And above all, the system is delivered daily by nine Fire/Rescue companies with extremely professional, caring, and knowledgeable personnel, all of whom are aware of the importance of excellent public service.

When we factor this in with our recent CFAI accreditation, which we have maintained through three cycles, we are pretty proud.  But even more impressive is that our personnel have maintained their positive attitude and professionalism despite comments made about their integrity by certain individuals in our community, rather than those individuals stepping back and defending what they should have known to be true.  Our entire force maintained this very same quiet professionalism even when held to a 1% salary raise last year (and that was not across the board) and no increases in years before that, not because they were afraid to speak out, but because they heard the concern of the community, especially with the economic situation being what it was, and they were willing to accept that and soldier on, when they had every right to be vocal and upset about the situation.  These personnel have also maintained their quiet professionalism among other challenges as well, challenges that will remain unsaid by us, because that's the kind of people we have.

One of the primary things we say to guide our people is to always "do the right thing".  If that means stopping and helping someone change a tire, or picking you up off the floor for the seventh time that week, or loading up your kids in the rig to take them to the hospital when we are transporting you because you have no family available, we do what it takes to make our "customers" happy.  And we say customers because it isn't just the taxpayers; we serve the visitors, the workers, the homeless, anyone we deal with.  They may be patients today, or the may be the homeowner on another, or the occupant, but to us, they are people.

We have an extraordinary amount of pride in our department, but a lot of humility as well.  I talk about all of our personnel because I am proud of them, but they don't go around bragging about it, so I am happy to tell you all about them.  We have very high expectations of our people, but we have fun too.  And while there are plenty of bad moments, the good definitely outweigh the bad.  The difference is that we try to let everyone in on the decisions (to the extent possible), we listen, we try to get them the tools they need (but they aren't spoiled, our budget didn't budge but a single digit percentage from last year), and we do things safely, with a lot of common sense applied rather than emotion.

So while we will be celebrating this new award, we already realize, it is recognition for what we have done.  For us, what we have done so far is never good enough.  We will continue to push forward and improve from where we are today, to keep looking at ways we can tweak this or adjust that to make our organization that much better.  We do not rest on our laurels.

If you get a chance to come to our Island, make sure you stop by a station.  EVERY station and Headquarters is open to the public and we encourage visitors.  We will always take the time to show someone the trucks, or to take a blood pressure, or just to talk about what we do.  We are an all-hazards response agency who takes the job very seriously and we like sharing what we do. Thanks to all of you at HHIFR; you all make me proud to be affiliated with you. 

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