(SPONSORED) It was early January when Dr. Clayton Kazan, Medical Director for the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD), began to devise a plan for the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic to Los Angeles County (County).
And when it did, the County was prepared, but it would not have been without the help of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Foundation (Fire Foundation), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation formed in 2015 to help support the LACoFD and strengthen its resources.
“The Fire Department has had budget shortfalls for the last several years,” Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby said. “Our call volume continues to rise, and the Fire Foundation is a trustworthy partner that supports lifesaving equipment and programs that our firefighters and communities rely on.”
The LACoFD’s Emergency Medical Services Bureau requested the Fire Foundation replace the antiquated technology used by paramedics and firefighters with new smaller, less expensive devices that would allow them to access important applications and programs. This opened the door for LACoFD to be one of the first to offer the Telemedicine Program on every LACoFD paramedic unit across the County, from Lakewood to Lancaster, and Claremont to Hermosa Beach.
As an expansion to the Advanced Provider Response Unit pilot program implemented in November of last year, the Telemedicine Program launched in March of 2020 allows a nurse practitioner or nurse (with the option to use three-way video with an emergency room physician, as needed) to virtually assess a mildly ill patient via video preventing unneeded trips to the emergency room. The program connects patients who do not require emergency care with a provider who can assess the patient’s condition, provide a treatment plan, and even call in prescriptions to support the treatment plan.
“We anticipated a huge surge and potential humanitarian crisis of epic proportions,” Kazan said. “Thankfully, that has not materialized…but had it or should it resurge, LACoFD is ready.”
The Telemedicine Program has been so successful that the LACoFD plans to incorporate telehealth into its long-term strategy to reduce unnecessary hospital transports.
“Through the generosity of donors, the Fire Foundation is able to fund critical equipment for frontline firefighters and life-saving programs, support the implementation of new technology, and support community education programs.” said Stacy Mungo Flanigan, the Fire Foundation’s executive director. “Our programs continue to have life-changing results.”
The Telemedicine Program is just one of many resources provided by the Fire Foundation over the last five years.
The We Hear You Program is an idea sharing platform that allows firefighters and residents to share community needs and provide more effective services.
In mid-April, weather stations were distributed for use on engine strike teams to prepare for the upcoming wildfire season. A dozen waterproof radios were also recently secured for the LACoFD Lifeguard Division, to ensure lifeguards have the ability to communicate the status of patients from the water to the shore.
“Innovation in the fire service comes from ideas that are discussed around the kitchen table in the firehouse,” Mungo said. “A great example is our Family Instructions for Rapid Escape (F.I.R.E.) guide and coloring book that parents are downloading to prepare their families for emergencies and ensure their homes are fire-safe, after hearing of the recent spike in home fires during the Safer at Home Public Health Order.”
“We are not out of the woods by a long shot,” Kazan said. “Additional resources will be needed until we reach a critical mass of residents with antibodies (herd immunity) or until a vaccine is disseminated.”
So far, the Fire Foundation has received and spent more than $50,000 in donations received through the recently established LACoFD COVID-19 Relief and Resiliency Fund, but they will need more help to support paramedics and firefighters on the front lines of this global pandemic.
Anyone who wishes to donate can visit https://supportlacountyfire.org. All donated funds will go toward equipping first responders with lifesaving personal protective equipment and technology.
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