Waco: New Program to Assist First Responders

Friday, 19 July 2013

By Nichole Perez, KWTX.com

Two years in the making and now the Waco Fire Corps is ready to report for duty.

12 volunteers graduated from the program this week after receiving training to rehabilitate first responders.

Waco Firefighter Jeff Wilhelm thought of the idea two years ago but after battling a large fire at the Goodwill in East Waco, he decided it was time to finish creating the program.

Fire Corps was on an on-call basis so they have to be dispatched by the fire chief or after the crews on scene have gone through two air-packs.

Wilhelm says they will usually report to larger incidents with multiple crews on scene.

Once they are called out, they go to the location of the fire and find a safe refuge area to set up their easy-up shelters.

Firefighters who are coming out of battling the fire can sign in at the rehab station and then they will be treated.

"We do vital signs, we check blood pressure, pulse, carbon monoxide levels, O2 levels in the blood, temperature and if they're a diabetic, we check sugar levels," says Wilhelm.

Once vitals are check, volunteers will work on cooling down the firefighter's body.

Wilhelm says they have a "nice system called an Aquavest system. That Aquavest cools down the core. It's the most effective way currently to cool down a human body."

They also have mister fans that will lower the air temperature by 30 degrees.

Heaters will be used for rehabing during the Winter and light systems will be used at night.

All of their equipment was bought with grant money from FEMA.

Wilhelm says the program isn't strictly used for the Waco Fire Department.

Other emergency services who wish to use the program have to call the Waco Fire Chief and ask.

Also, since Fire Corps is a volunteer program, they want to encourage others to sign up for the volunteer training.

"Just in case during the daytime, just in case people are on vacation, normal jobs or something like that it's important that we have as many volunteers as we can get," says Wilhelm.

Wilhelm will not hold another training class until the sign up list is full.

To sign up to volunteer call the station at (254) 750-1740.

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