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Covington firefighters training to become EMTs

Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Capt. Robbie Canady uses an AED - auto external defibrillator -during EMT training for firefighters at Georgia Piedmont Technical College. Compression and ventilation techniques were being taught on Wednesday.

Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Capt. Robbie Canady uses an AED - auto external defibrillator -during EMT training for firefighters at Georgia Piedmont Technical College. Compression and ventilation techniques were being taught on Wednesday.

COVINGTON -- Firefighters with the Covington Fire Department are learning to be even more capable at responding to medical emergencies.

More than two dozen of the CFD's finest are training to be Emergency Medical Technicians, or EMTs, through a program offered by Georgia Piedmont Technical College.

They'll complete their basic level course and be tested by the National Register of Emergency Medical Technicians in December, and if successful, be licensed as EMTs through the state. Then, they'll complete advance EMT training next April.

All told, the firefighters will spend 16 months training, so they can be better prepared to handle medical calls.

According to Fire Chief John McNeil, a handful of firefighters were EMTs when he first took over the department. But with 60 to 65 percent of the CFD's calls being medical related, McNeil said he wanted to get the department better trained. The entire suppression unit, from new recruits to captains, will be certified EMTs once they complete their course work and pass the required test.

Training is being paid for through a federal grant obtained by Georgia Piedmont Technical College. The grant is available to all students in the EMT and paramedic programs through March and is applied after state and federal aid, said Simeon Smith, EMT instructor. The fire department will be responsible for testing and licensing costs, he said. GPTC designed the EMT classes around the firefighters' schedules.

According to Capt. Robert Canady, 99 percent of the time, the fire department is first on the scene to medical response calls.

"EMS is stretched pretty thin. It's more important for us to be out in the field and have the training, when the number of calls are increasing and resources are not increasing," he said.

With EMT certification, firefighters will be able to administer medications like aspirin and nitroglycerin for patients in cardiac arrest, epinephrine for those experiencing allergic reactions, and even intubate patients and start IVs, assist with childbirth and, on a more basic level, more easily recognize symptoms and signs of various medical conditions.

"What we will do will better the community and increase the level of training. We'll be able to administer more drugs and advance techniques and save more lives," Canady said.

The firefighters currently in EMT training will not advance to paramedic status, but the department already has about half a dozen paramedics on staff, Canady said.

In another effort to be more efficient on medical response calls, the CFD now runs an SUV on medical calls to minimize wear and tear on firetrucks, McNeil said.