The Daily Herald, Columbia, Tenn.
The city’s first responders often don’t know what they’re getting into when they arrive on the scene of an emergency call, especially when the situation involves the birth of a child.
That’s exactly what happened when officers were called to the scene at the South James M. Campbell Boulevard Walgreens on March 11, when officer Austin Sanders, along with firefighter/EMT Kitt Cook and paramedics were notified a woman was in the process of giving birth inside the store.
“This is a real honor for me. Officer Sanders and firefighter Cook have done something that I’ve never done in my career, and we took a poll within our department and no officer that I know of has had to do this,” Columbia Police Assistant Chief Joey Gideon said. “Officer Sanders acted perfectly when on March 11, 2021, he was dispatched to a call at Walgreens on the south side, and like many of our calls, he didn’t know what he was going into, just that it was a pregnancy complication.”
Columbia Fire and Rescue and Maury Regional EMS were swiftly dispatched. When Sanders arrived, he was led into the bathroom and was confronted with a pregnant woman whose baby had already breeched.
“Officer Sanders, through the body camera and watching that, immediately took action, and mind you he has not been properly trained on how to deliver a baby. None of our officers are, but he did not hesitate one bit,” Gideon said. “He went in there asking, ‘What can I do to help?” and through his actions he made sure that baby was safely delivered out.”
Gideon added that EMS Director Brian Hupp said, “This was one of the most dangerous births you can have.”
“I watched the body cam several times, because I was amazed at how calm he was, how he immediately took action,” he said. “Many people would have stepped back and said to get EMS and fire in here as quickly as possible, but he took action until he was able to hand it over to the firefighter team. I am super proud of my officer here.”
Sanders was later awarded the Lifesaver Award by CPD as well as a Stork Award, which is given in the extremely rare instance where an officer helps to deliver a baby.
Columbia Fire Chief Ty Cobb also thanked the responders for their quick action in handling the situation. The baby, a girl, was safely delivered.
It was also an example of the kind of teamwork executed by CPD, CFR and Maury Regional EMS.
“As I watched the review of this call from the body camera, I saw their skill-set, their calmness in working with the patient and the employees at the store where this happened. I saw their training kick in,” Cobb said. “Especially with one of our newest paramedics, Kitt Cook. I’m very proud of him.He went to paramedics school at Columbia State Community College, and he’s done a great job for us.”
Cobb added that much of the department’s training was thanks, in part, to partnerships with Columbia City Council and Maury Regional Medical Center in allowing CFR to constantly improve its paramedics training.
“We’re saving lives every day, and it’s because of the great men and women who work for police, fire and EMS,” Cobb said.
Mayor Chaz Molder also thanked the responders for their response to the scene.
“On behalf of all of city council, the city of Columbia, thanks to the both of you,” Molder said. “We talk all the time about first responders and how they never know what they are getting into when they get that call. Sometimes, it’s not a very good situation, and here I’m sure it was a very intense situation filled with trepidation, but at the end of the day, they brought a life into the world.”
As the city celebrated the heroics of one of its newest CFR employees, it also bade farewell to one of its longest serving members, Deputy Chief Chris Cummins, who is retiring after 31 years.
Molder described Cummins’ retirement as “bittersweet,” partly because he hates to see a good employee leave the department, but also because it’s a testament to the fact he dedicated more than three decades of his life building CFR into what it is today.
In addition to his work as a first responder, Cummins was responsible for overseeing the city’s Emergency Management Operations Team as well as being on the forefront of the development of the department’s newest Fire Station No. 3 off Bear Creek Pike.
“When I think of Chris Cummins, I think of the city of Columbia. His face and name are both synonymous with our city,” Molder said. “Not many people have that distinction, but I think this man does.”
City Manager Tony Massey spoke about Cummins’ involvement in building the new Bear Creek fire station.
“The brains behind all of that is right here. He was involved every day up there as the construction manager overseeing that project and everything that was put in place,” Massey said. “That station is really a good reflection of Chris and everything he has gone about doing for the Columbia Fire Department over the years.”
Cobb joked that he wished he could have influenced council to vote “no” to Cummins’ retirement.
“Chris Cummins is a perfectionist and has saved the taxpayers a lot of money in this city through projects he has done with the fire station, including our newest state-of-the-art facility on Bear Creek Pike, which is pretty much known across the state and nationally with how it was built and designed,” Cobb said. “When you put it in Chris Cummins’ hands, you know it’s going to be done right.”
Cobb also spoke about Cummins’ work over the last five years, and how it was instrumental in the city’s growth and allowing CFR to focus on emergency management on a full-time basis.
“We knew the right man for the job was Deputy Chief Chris Cummins, and he hit the ground running. And just like with everything he does, he was really professional to build his relationships in our Emergency Management division, which is one of the best in the state,” Cobb said. “We will miss him in those efforts.”
More than anything, Cummins was someone Cobb could depend on for anything, he said.
“We have worked together up through the ranks, competed for promotions, but we’ve always been best friends,” Cobb said. “I’m going to miss him. He’s like my right arm.”
Cummins thanked the city for allowing him to have such a successful and lustrous career over 31 years, especially over the last decade as the city experienced immense growth.
“It’s been a great career, and I’ve learned a lot over these last few years,” Cummins said. “I will cherish a lot of the memories.”
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