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Why do I get a firetruck when I call for an ambulance?


By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

  Itís a question most of us have asked at one time or another.

Someone has a medical issue and calls 911. In a few minutes, the ambulance arrives, but it is accompanied by a large fire truck.


  In an effort to help local citizens have a better understanding of how the 911 system works, the Henry County Fire Department set out to answer that question.

  When a 911 call is received for a fire in a home, the unit response will include at least one ambulance and possibly a second, depending on the nature and magnitude of the situation observed by the first arriving units, according to an HCFD spokesperson. When a 911 call is received for a medical call, a fire truck is often dispatched as well as an ambulance depending on the critical nature and the life-threatening potential. 

  There are 13 HCFD stations strategically located throughout the county. All of them have at least one fire truck positioned to respond to a call, but only ten of the fire stations also house an ambulance despite the fact that medical calls and ambulance requests are among the most common 911 calls that fire departments receive. Fortunate-ly, fire service personnel are cross-trained as firefighters and emergency medical technicians/paramedics, and the fire trucks they are riding on are equipped with advanced life support equipment.

  What does this mean to the average resident phoning 911?

In the early days, fire stations were strategically located so the crews could quickly get to burning buildings for obvious reasons, as time is of the essence in such a situation. It soon became apparent that the firefighterís ability to respond quickly is also important for other types of emergency responses, such as heart attacks, strokes and trauma incidents.

  According to medical experts, three to five minutes is a critical time frame for someone who has experienced a heart attack, an injury, or any other illness that causes breathing to stop. The heart and brain have a better chance of full recovery when receiving oxygen within five minutes or less. After that time period, a person can suffer brain damage or worse.

  Henry County firefighters, many of whom are educated to the level of paramedic, can use life-saving techniques including defibrillation and medications to help prevent death or permanent injury. These techniques are much more effective when initiated quickly after the onset of the medical emergency.

  Each HCFD station is part of a much larger, intricate dispatch system designed to provide adequate emergency coverage for citizens by carefully managing response resources.

  So when you dial 911 for a medical emergency and get a fire truck in addition to an ambulance, it is likely that you will also be getting extra resources and expertise that could save a life.

  This is the type of question that is answered during the departmentís Citizens Fire Academy that is conducted periodically. For any other questions about the department, call 770-288-6600 or visit the HCFD page at



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