Originally Published: December 15, 2005 4 a.m.
Black Canyon Fire Department is implementing a new program designed to give responding firefighters a snapshot medical history about the victims living in the home in case the firefighters respond there for an emergency.
"It's called Vial of Life," said Shawn Smith, BCFD Firefighter, EMT, and public education officer. "There's just so much good that can come out of this. It's a really good program."
The program consists of an "Emergency Medical Information" form, a fire hydrant shaped refrigerator magnet, and one plastic sandwich baggie. The three items in combination can save someone's life, Smith said.
"What the person does is just fill in the blocks on the medical information form, put the form in the baggie, and then stick the baggie on your refrigerator with the magnet," Smith said. "Then when we arrive, all we have to do is go to the refrigerator and pull out the form. Everything we need to know is on that form. It's that simple."
Smith said he first learned of the program as a volunteer firefighter in Iowa. "The information sheets were put in an old medicine bottle and then that was put in the refrigerator. But I didn't like that idea because you had to go through the refrigerator looking for the medicine bottle, and it could be mixed up with other medicine bottles.
"This way, all we have to do is go into the house and just grab the sheet off the door and we've got it all right there. We don't have waste time looking through someone's refrigerator."
The emergency information sheet contains all the basic medical information that is in every person's medical file, except it is all condensed onto one piece of paper that can be quickly scanned for necessary information in an emergency.
"If someone is unconscious, or can't speak, and no one else is around, we don't know what that person's medical history is," Smith said. "We can look on the sheet and see if they're diabetic, and then we know to check their blood sugar. If they are taking some kind of medication, we need to know that so we don't overdose them on something.
"And even if someone is there who isn't the one in trouble, usually by the time we get there everyone is in a panic. Half the time they don't know the person's history, or can't tell us. With this form, we just have to read it and get all the information we need."
Smith said a refrigerator is not the only place to put the Vial of Life baggie, and he said it will be the first place firefighters and other responders will look. "You can make copies and put them by your front door, or in a bedroom or bathroom, but you should always put one on the refrigerator."
A typical scenario, according to Smith, is when parents leave their children with a babysitter or relative who does not know the child's medical history. "It's great for kids because we can read the sheet and don't have to waste time trying to find a relative or someone who knows if the kid has an allergy or asthma or something else."
Alzheimer's disease is not mentioned on the emergency medical form, but Smith said it should be written on there so that responders will know if the victim has it. "When we do A&O (alert and oriented questions), and the person isn't making sense, it helps a lot to know he has Alzheimer's and not something else."
Smith is putting together the Vial of Life packets and giving them to people as he responds to emergency calls. Packets can also be picked up at the Black Canyon Fire Department and at different locations in Black Canyon City.
For more information about the program, call Smith at 623-374-5512.
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