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"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
– George Bernard Shaw  
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 10 October 2018  

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  Emergency medical services: changes ahead?
  By Robin Widmar

   Anyone who has ever needed emergency medical services understands the anxiety that accompanies a medical emergency and the wait for EMS personnel to arrive. Typically, people are not thinking about who will show up to help them. They simply expect qualified responders to arrive and provide the care they need.
   
   It is important, however, for Falcon residents to understand how emergency medical services works in this area, and how it could change over the next few years.
   
   EMS in Falcon
   When someone calls 911 asking for an ambulance, the fire department also responds. Firefighters with EMS training are often the first to arrive; they can provide patient care until the ambulance arrives.
   
   Every Falcon firefighter is cross-trained as an EMT (emergency medical technician), capable of providing BLS (basic life support) procedures for a wide array of injuries and illnesses. FFPD currently has only two firefighters certified to provide ALS (advanced life support), which is a higher level of pre-hospital care.
   
   Each ambulance from American Medical Response or other providers is staffed with an EMT and a paramedic who are BLS and ALS certified, respectively. This ensures that ALS level care is available on every call. Ambulances also transport patients to hospitals.
   
   Currently, AMR houses an ambulance at FFPD Station 1 at the corner of Meridian Ranch Boulevard and Stapleton Drive. Although residents may see an ambulance painted in Falcon fire department colors and emblazoned with its name, the ambulance belongs to AMR, and its staff are AMR employees.
   
   When this ambulance is at a Falcon fire station or somewhere in Falcon’s fire district, it generally has a faster response time than ambulances responding from outside the district’s boundaries. However, it is not dedicated solely to calls in the Falcon Fire Protection District, although it is housed at a Falcon fire station. This ambulance may be called to respond to locations on the eastern plains as well as within the city of Colorado Springs, leaving it unavailable for calls in Falcon’s jurisdiction. In those instances, an ambulance must respond from somewhere else, which means it takes longer to arrive at the scene.
   
   Just how long does it take?
   Several factors affect response times for both FFPD units and ambulances, but the most significant tends to be distance. The Falcon fire district covers 113 square miles, so unless crews happen to be in the immediate vicinity of an incident, it usually takes longer to reach the areas farthest away from the district’s staffed fire stations.
   
   In 2017, FFPD’s average emergent response time for EMS calls and traffic accidents across the entire fire district was seven minutes and 11 seconds, compared to eight minutes and 21 seconds in 2016. By comparison, ambulance emergent response times in 2017 averaged 11 minutes and 40 seconds district wide, which is a slight increase over the 2016 average response time of 11 minutes and 32 seconds. The ambulance housed at FFPD Station 1 generally had quicker response times than ambulances coming from outside the fire district, but that varied by location within the fire district.
   
   In 2016, there were 145 instances of ambulances taking more than 20 minutes to arrive at a scene. In 2017, that number was 113.
   
   Greater demand for EMS
   In 2017, FFPD logged a record 2,502 calls for service, an increase of 26.4 percent from the 1,979 calls recorded just five years earlier in 2013. EMS calls and traffic accidents accounted for 62 percent of the 2017 total
   
   The rising number of EMS calls, traffic accidents and other emergency incidents is putting a greater demand on county emergency response agencies, including Falcon’s fire department.
   
   Uncertain future for county ambulance services
   AMR’s contract to provide ALS and ambulance transport services to Colorado Springs expires this year, and the city is pursuing options independent of the county Emergency Services Authority. AMR’s contract with the ESA to provide those same services in unincorporated El Paso County expires in 2019, but so far there is no clear picture of what ambulance transport will look like for county residents after that.
   
   Because of the uncertainty of future ambulance services for FFPD residents, the FFPD board and leadership are actively exploring the possibility of providing ambulance service for residents of the Falcon fire district. However, this cannot be achieved with the fire district’s current funding. The district has hired a consultant to help determine the feasibility of a mill levy increase to support a district-operated ambulance service and an increase in firefighter staffing. (For more information, see the January FFPD board meeting article in the February issue of The New Falcon Herald and the January FFPD special board meeting in this issue.)
   
   The Falcon Fire Protection District wants residents to understand that running its own ambulance service is not about the money, because that effort will still require supplemental funding by the district. FFPD is working to ensure that residents and visitors continue to receive quality EMS care and transport when they need it most. In the end, it will be up to district residents to decide what emergency medical services in the Falcon area means to them.
  
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  Safety tip
  Seat belts: buckle up every time
  By Robin Widmar

   In this day and age of vehicles loaded with safety features, some people may be complacent about wearing seat belts. Yet, statistics continue to show that wearing seat belts saves lives.
   Here are some quick numbers from the Colorado Department of Transportation:
  • Colorado has seen a 29 percent increase in traffic fatalities since 2014.
  • Sixteen percent of Coloradans do not buckle up despite seat belt laws.
  • In 2017, 211 people who were not wearing seat belts died in traffic crashes in Colorado, which is a 14 percent increase from 2016.
  • In 2017, El Paso County recorded the highest number of traffic fatalities (76) in the state.

   Why do people choose not to buckle up? Some may believe that seat belts are unnecessary because of advanced safety features in newer vehicles. Others might think that seat belts are not necessary for that short drive to the store. Back seat passengers might feel they are safe enough since they are not sitting in front of the windshield.
   
   The fact is that seat belts have been part of vehicle safety for decades, and continue to be an integral part of today’s safety systems. They can keep people restrained during a crash, or even during sudden maneuvers like hard braking or swerving to avoid an obstacle or another car. And as for those unbelted back seat passengers, they can become a hazard to others in the vehicle when they are jolted loose from the force of a crash.
   
   Here are the seat belt laws in Colorado direct from the Colorado State Patrol website. The child passenger safety law clearly defines child safety seat and seat belt use from birth through age 15 as follows:
  • The law requires infants to ride in a rear-facing child safety seat until they are at least 1 year old and weigh less than 20 pounds.
  • The law requires children ages 1 to 4 years old that weigh at least 20 pounds up to 40 pounds to be restrained in a forward-facing or rear-facing child safety seat.
  • The law requires that children who weigh over 40 pounds or who are at least 4 years old be properly restrained in a child booster seat or with a child safety belt-positioning device. Children must ride in booster seats until they are 8 years old.
  • A child who is at least 8 years old must be properly restrained with a safety belt or child restraint system.

   Buckle up every time. Not only is it the law, it is your life.
  
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  Annual Easter Egg Hunt

   The Easter Bunny is on his way to Falcon! Falcon Fire Department and Woodmen Hills are teaming up again this year for the annual Easter Egg Hunt at Falcon Fire Station 1 — 12072 Royal County Down Road. The event will take place Saturday, March 31, from 10 a.m. to noon, with the egg hunt starting at 10:30. Children will be divided by age groups in search of an estimated 10,000 eggs.
   
   Other activities will include a bounce house, crafts and sidewalk chalk art. The Roasted Jalapeño food truck will also be on site.
   
   The event is free to the public thanks to donors and sponsors, including Swirly Cow Frozen Yogurt, Great Clips, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Little Caesars Pizza and Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. Anyone interested in donating to the event can call the Falcon Fire Department at 719-495-4050.
   
   Check out the website and social media accounts listed below for event updates.
  
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  Stay connected with the FFPD

   Website: http://falconfirepd.org
   Facebook: Falcon Fire Department
   Twitter: @FalconFireDept
  
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