Basalt paramedics receive grant for carbon monoxide detection
December 25, 2008
BASALT ” The Basalt fire department used a $5,000 grant this month to purchase equipment that will vastly improve its ability to detect carbon monoxide poisoning.
“The paramedics have been asking for a (carbon monoxide) monitor for some time,” said Basalt fire chief Scott Thompson. “Four, five, up to 10 times per winter we have a need for this.”
Elevated carbon monoxide readings are difficult to detect. Without a monitor, possible victims must be sent to a hospital for a blood test. When it wasn’t clear that carbon monoxide poisoning was an issue, many suspected victims were reluctant to go to the hospital for a test and possible treatment, Thompson said. Another problem with detection is the symptoms mimic the flu ” with nausea and headaches.
But not getting a definitive answer and treatment, if necessary, can be hazardous. Carbon monoxide poisoning damages cells and can lead to death.
With the new monitor, Basalt fire department and medical teams can take the guesswork out of assessments. The monitor, a Rad-57, uses an attachment similar to a clothespin on a patient’s index finger. A line feeds information back to a compact instrument panel.
Paramedics can use the special monitor read a heart rate, carbon monoxide level and oxygen level, said Dan Goddard, a paramedic and firefighter with the Basalt department. In a few short seconds, the operator gets a clear reading on the patient’s oxygen level, which should be above 92 percent, and a signal if the carbon monoxide level is elevated.
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Goddard believes it will be a handy tool for the paramedics. “It’s another piece of the picture,” Goddard said.
He said it will be particularly helpful in three general types of cases: when personnel suspect someone was exposed to carbon monoxide, if, for example, a furnace was malfunctioning; when there is no apparent source of carbon but a person shows symptoms; and when firefighters are battling a blaze. Tests will be performed to make sure the firefighters weren’t exposed to carbon monoxide for too long.
Thompson said the application for the grant was submitted before tragedy struck in Aspen on Thanksgiving weekend. A Denver family of four was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in the rental house where they slept just outside of town. A leak was detected in a mechanical system in the house.
The Hillsdale Fund Inc. of Greensboro, N.C., awarded the grant to the Basalt fire department. The nonprofit organization awards grants in a variety of areas, including education, the arts and environment. It was established by the Lunsford Richardson family. Richardson was the founder of a company that makes Vicks Vapo-Rub.