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Base paramedics back in action

The Buckley Fire Department poses for a photograph Sept. 22, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The fire department was recently given permission by Air Force officials to resume the use of paramedics on base, cutting response times in half and allowing fire department personnel to use their capabilities to the fullest. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke W. Nowakowski/Released)

The Buckley Fire Department poses for a photograph Sept. 22, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The fire department was recently given permission by Air Force officials to resume the use of paramedics on base, cutting response times in half and allowing fire department personnel to use their capabilities to the fullest. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke W. Nowakowski/Released)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Buckley Air Force Base recently regained authorization to allow the Buckley Fire Department to act as paramedics on base.

Buckley AFB is unique compared with most other bases, in the fact that the fire department firefighters are also qualified paramedics, explained Col. Michael Kindt, 460th Space Wing Medical Group commander. Most fire department personnel in the Air Force are only qualified up to emergency medical technician level, which is below the ability of a qualified paramedic. Paramedics can perform at a much higher level than an EMT with more knowledge and tools at their disposal upon arrival at an emergency scene.

However, in 2013, the Air Force changed its policy on the standard, at which base fire departments personnel operates.

"About two years ago, the Air Force determined that all Air Force base fire departments would operate at the emergency medical technician level," Kindt said. "That meant that Buckley was going to have to take these guys who function as paramedics and say, 'you are no longer allowed to do all of these lifesaving things that you've been trained to do, and you have to go back to doing a little bit more than self-aid buddy care."

With fire department personnel being denied the ability to use their training as paramedics due to new Air Force policy, Buckley had to look off base for emergency responders trained as paramedics. 

"We were going to rely on Aurora for paramedic services," Kindt said. "Our fire department goes out, they stabilize somebody and deal with whatever the immediate emergency is. We call an ambulance from off base, which has a paramedic on it, and transports them to whatever local hospital they have to go to."

However, this new way to respond to on-base emergencies created an issue. Air Force standard response time for an ambulance with a paramedic to get to a patient is 12 minutes. The average time it was taking for Aurora emergency personnel to get to a patient on Buckley was consistently exceeding the 12 minute mark.

After multiple appeals by base leadership, a staff assistance visit team from the Surgeon General and Air Force Civil Engineer Office visited Buckley to get an understanding of why the base needed paramedics, and ultimately agreed that it was in the best interest of the base to have them.

"They saw that we had some additional risk here that we needed to address by maintaining paramedics," said Kindt. "Col. Wagner was pushing this hard from the day he got here, Col. Jourdan and Chief Bosch in the fire department, were pushing real hard to make this happen."

Having paramedics creates an additional safety net which will provide Buckley residents with the highest care in the event of an emergency, added Kindt. Emergency response times average three to four minutes, greatly exceeding Air Force standards and responders will have the skills to keep a patient safe and stable until an ambulance arrives to transport them to the nearest hospital.

"It's a big deal in that our paramedics that were authorized in our fire department can now go back to providing the full scope of emergency response that they've been trained to do," Kindt said.

Now that the paramedics are back on base, thirteen thousand personnel and 88 mission partners receive state-of-the-art Advanced Life Support Medical in an average response time of 4 minutes, said Tim Bosch, Buckley Fire Department chief.

"This was not a new mission request," said Bosch. "Buckley Fire had been providing Advanced Life Support service to this community and our local community for the past 15 years.  Without a Medical Group clinic on base or an ambulance response, and not having a contracted ambulance service, coupled with outstanding testimony from our Space Wing commander, mission partners, and mutual aid partners, (all played a role to) sway the Air Force Surgeon General Working Group in our favor to reinstate Buckley Fire Emergency Services to Advanced Life Support Paramedics."
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