Carlisle’s EMTs: friends, neighbors
and highly trained first responders
A little more than a hundred years ago, Carlisle’s fire warden called for the formation of a volunteer fire company, primarily to fight forest fires. Each member paid $1 dues for the privilege of joining the club. Today, our Fire Department is still on-call. When you call 911, the firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians who show up are neighbors and friends. They might come from work, from dinner with their family, from mowing the lawn, or from their own warm, comfortable bed in the middle of the night. They are not amateurs. The department has expertise in fire prevention and suppression, investigations and inspections, emergency medical services, and public education. The firefighters and EMTs train continuously on Wednesday evenings throughout the year, with occasional Saturdays and Sundays, to meet the highest professional standards. Fire Department members attend field classes conducted by the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy, and many have completed their national Firefighter I/II certification. Carlisle’s EMTs are state- and nationally-certified.
A few years ago, one of my kids ate a peanut butter Girl Scout cookie at a friend’s house. It was his brother who said, “Hey, you can’t eat that! You’re allergic to peanuts!” By the time he got home, his throat was beginning to close. I dialed 911. The Carlisle ambulance met us in the driveway. I gave him a shot of adrenaline with his Epi-pen. I had four kids in different directions across town, so I handed him his favorite stuffed animal, Hippo, and passed him off to the EMTs. Fortunately, they were people I knew and trusted. He threw up on the way to the hospital. It was Bryan Sorrows, Carlisle’s new Fire Chief, who cleaned up the ambulance and tossed a dirty Hippo into the hospital laundry. For my son, Hippo’s vacation in hospital laundry land was more traumatic than the ambulance ride. Kudos to Bryan and the Emerson staff, who returned Hippo fluffy and clean in a couple of days. For me, there was comfort in knowing that my child was in good hands.
So congratulations to me—and to a dozen new friends with whom I’ve spent evenings for the past couple of months learning to splint broken bones, strap trauma victims to backboards, administer oxygen, and operate automated external defibrillators. In parallel with the practical skills training, my cohort of EMT candidates worked our way online through several inches of textbook material on anatomy, physiology, and all varieties of traumatic and medical emergencies. More than half of our class are already firefighters. Everyone who took the practical exam passed, which means that after we pass the big test for national EMS certification, Carlisle will have a whole new crew of folks eligible to train with our town’s Fire Department to answer emergency calls around town. That’s a very good thing.
Along the way, I’ve learned a couple of easy things we can do to help the EMTs.For example, a visible house number on the street can eliminate confusion about which driveway is yours. You should post your current medication prescriptions on your fridge where emergency responders can locate them easily. If a loved one has a legal do-not-resuscitate order (DNR), put that on the fridge too. Remind yourself how to do CPR. The internet has little videos to help manage a stroke. Calling 911 quickly is key. And you don’t need special training to use one of those automatic defibrillators. You open the box and it tells you what to do. Who knew?