WDBJ7 Exclusive: Carilion Clinic and Roanoke County Fire and Rescue partner to help community during heat waves

Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 6:34 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Two agencies here at home are coming together with one goal – saving lives. Carilion Clinic doctors visited Roanoke County Fire and Rescue squads Wednesday to give them new tools to respond to heat emergencies.

As people continue dealing with heat in our hometowns and around the country– people are vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. Officials say it’s vital for everyone to work as one team when responding to emergencies.

“We’re talking about heat-related illnesses – particularly as the temperature is kind of rising,” said Carilion Clinic Emergency Medicine and Wilderness Medicine Doctor CJ Waasdorp.

Amid one of the hottest summers on record, doctors are concerned about the health and safety of residents.

“When the person has altered mental status and they start to get confused, then that’s kind of the biggest red flag that they’re headed towards heat stroke and time is kind of of the essence to began cooling the patient as soon as possible,” explained Waasdorp.

Carilion Clinic’s Wilderness Medicine program teaches best practices when responding to environmental emergencies.

“A lot of the time, the biggest kind of bang for your buck in terms of treatment is stuff that is done really on scene and in the front-end; that is why we like to come out and do education with our fire and EMS crews,” added Waasdorp.

Roanoke County Fire and Rescue first responders say they’re always looking for ways to better serve the community.

“To be able to treat them well and protect their health in these kinds of environments really makes a difference for them in the long term,” said Roanoke County Fire and Rescue Paramedic-Firefighter Matthew Poche.

Firefighters learned about the TACO method, which stands for Tarp Assistant Cooling with Oscillation.

“Put the person that’s suffering heat illness or heat stroke on the tarp. Sorta fold it up like a taco,” explained Waasdorp. “Keep the water inside, pour the water over, ice if you have it and then start to isolate the water over them. So, it’s kind of washing, it’s really just shaking the person back and forth.”

The new method helps fire and rescue squads stay ready to jump in when people need it the most.

“By using the equipment in some ways that are unconventional - we can hopefully cool somebody down really quick,” added Poche. “The idea of doing more treatment in the field that would be done in the hospital anyway is hopefully going to save people in the long run.”