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Suffolk, Va., Firefighters Certified as EMT-Is

SUFFOLK, Va. -- The services provided by the Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue went up a notch after five firefighters recently were certified as Emergency Medical Technician-Intermediates (EMT-I).

They include Lt. Scott Brower, and firefighters Durand Coltrane, Sheron Gibson, Richard Ward and Chris Zephir.

"For the community, this means we can provide that extra level of care to the citizens in time of a medical emergency," said Capt. James T. Judkins Jr.

While firefighters are often hired with little or no medical training, the department will put them through training. They have one year to complete EMT-Basic, and then get their EMT-Enchanced certificate.

The EMT-I is one level above that, and is just one step below the highest level, paramedic.

To get certified as an EMT-I, the firefighters were required to complete 272 hours of instruction, a minimum of 68 hours devoted to extensive clinical rotation in hospital specialty units and a minimum of 10 patient contact calls in which they act, under supervision, as a team leader on an Advance Life Support ambulance.

They then passsed an oral review board in order to be certified. Those who pass the rigorous testing are allowed to practice as a fire medic with the Department of Fire and Rescue.

"This level is not required," Judkins said. "It is a voluntary commitment, and it takes a lot of hard work getting this. Not everyone who goes through it completes it."

Of the 196 firefighters within the department, 126 are EMT-Es, 12 are EMT-I certified, while 21 are EMT-Paramedics. The remaining 37 firefighters are either EMT-Basic or in training.

The EMT-I certification, which is sanctioned by the Tidewater Emergency Medical services Council and the Virginia Department of Health Office of Emergency Medical Services, allows Fire Medics to deliver a mid-level of pre-hospital advanced life-support care. The certification must be renewed every three years.

The department went out on more than 7,000 emergency medical calls in 2006. The numbers for 2007 are still being compiled.

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