EMS services add equipment and protocol for frigid temperatures

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) While many are doing their best to stay warm, emergencies can happen. And if people need help, ambulances are ready to keep them warm.

According to the Blacksburg Volunteer Fire Department, it's usually when it snows or is icy on roads and walkways that more calls come in. But recent frigid temperatures can make many calls much harder.

Squad Chief David English explained, "If a patient is trapped outside, like in a vehicle, and it takes some time to extricate them out of the vehicle, or maybe they just fell on the ice or in the snow somewhere, there's other considerations that we need to take to keep them warm while we're getting them out."

So on top of the normal equipment on ambulances, Blacksburg has a cold emergency bag with even more warmers, wool blankets, foil blankets, and an emergency sleeping bag lined with warmers.

In addition to all of that is a portable heater brought to scenes where someone could be trapped in a car or room and could freeze before they're rescued.

"We can use that to generate some warm air to blow and fill that space to keep them warm while we're working on them," Chief English said.

Meanwhile at Virginia Tech, the Rescue Squad doesn't have an extra bag of equipment. But their focus is on everything they have to leave outside, as they only have a one-truck garage.

University Junior Nick Troitino is the Rescue Squad's Equipment Officer.

He explained, "We have to ensure that the majority of our fleet that stays outside stays operational, at a moment’s notice we have to be able to respond to calls, as well as some of our routine equipment, our cardiac monitors, our ADs, those are all temperature sensitive, as well as some of the drugs we carry."

So when a call comes in, the team carries the heart monitor and drug box with them from inside where they were being kept warm.

But another emergency seen lately in SWVA was lost power, which could mean no heat. Chief English has one important tip he says many don't think about when trying to find alternative sources of heat.

"A lot of things can generate Carbon Monoxide and if you have a stove in your house and it's not ventilated and running, those chemicals and fumes can build up in your house and that can be very dangerous," he said.

While Blacksburg said they don't get many calls for people being cold, Virginia Tech said they do get plenty of calls for hypothermia and other cold related issues. Especially as the students are starting to come back.

Both squads also said the equipment and protocols they have in place are the same as many hometown squads.

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