PALO PINTO — The newly created Palo Pinto County First Responder Organization (FRO) started service this week in the Lake Palo Pinto Fire District.
The FRO, part of Palo Pinto County Emergency Service District No. 1, will respond to 911 requests for emergency medical services in their district to provide initial basic life support treatment until arrival of an ambulance.
“Lake Palo Pinto Volunteer Fire Department is the first department in the county to participate in this county-wide FRO,” said Chief Gary Lee, the Palo Pinto County Fire Chief and EMS coordinator, who also serves as the FRO administrator. “There are several other departments in the county getting ready to participate in the FRO as we increase capability.”
The ESD established the FRO to reduce response times for emergency care to people in need.
“Our county is spread out and while our primary ambulance provider, Sacred Cross EMS, has a good track record of response times under 15 minutes, having the FRO in the local communities reduces that response time even more and also puts a ‘local face’ on scene to provide care,” Tye Jackson, ESD 1 board president, said.
The ESD funded the training, purchased the equipment, and secured insurance for the FRO.
“We wanted to make everything easy for the fire departments, so all they have to provide is the volunteers and a response vehicle, the ESD covers everything else,” Jackson said.
The FRO operates with state certified EMS personnel, from emergency care attendant to paramedics. It has a full complement of medical supplies and equipment, including automated external defibrillators — to provide basic life support treatment until an ambulance arrives — to continue treatment at the advanced life support level.
“We partnered with our ambulance provider to help train personnel at the VFDs which has the bonus of familiarizing the FRO volunteers and the ambulance personnel with each other,” Palo Pinto County Emergency Management Coordinator Mistie Garland said. “It makes for a much smoother ‘hand off’ when the medics know each other at the scene.”
Jackson said they are starting out with the FRO at the BLS level initially, before moving up to ALS capabilities “so we can utilize our volunteer advanced EMTs and paramedics with their full set of skills.”
The Lake Palo Pinto VFD, led by Fire Chief Doug Henderson, actively supported the program from its inception.
“Thirty percent of our members are participating. I think this is noteworthy and gives us an additional recruitment tool,” Henderson said. “One other point I feel strongly about is our community — I think it is critical that VFDs are seen as integral to the community, since we are the community. The FRO provides a needed quality service to our residents and their families.”
As the FRO adds departments, Lee said he foresees the entire area where ESD 1 is responsible for providing EMS to have FRO capabilities.
“Having the FRO in the local communities will make a real difference in the community,” he said.