Jemison Fire Chief named Hoover’s Paramedic of the Year

Published 4:13 pm Thursday, March 6, 2014

Jemison Fire Chief John Dennis was recently named the city of Hoover's 2013 Paramedic of the Year.

Jemison Fire Chief John Dennis was recently named the city of Hoover’s 2013 Paramedic of the Year.

Jemison Fire Chief John Dennis was recently named the city of Hoover’s 2013 Paramedic of the Year.

Although Dennis is full-time at JFD, he also serves full-time as a fire captain at Hoover Fire Department, where he has been employed almost 29 years.

Dennis received the award after he responded to a routine medical call on March 29, 2013.

“It was Good Friday, and I was sound asleep because the call came in a little before 5 a.m.,” Dennis said. “The report was someone was going in and out of consciousness and vomiting so we thought it was going to be a routine medical call.”

Dennis and crew arrived on the scene at the Renaissance Ross Bridge Resort and Conference Center responding to a hotel room with a family of four.

“When we got to the hotel room we were met by the dad in the family who was on his knees holding his 7-year-old son who was sick and his wife was unresponsive in the bathroom,” Dennis said. “The 9-year-old little girl was crying because she had a headache and was sick so we immediately thought food poisoning.”

After a few inquiries, Dennis ruled out food poisoning due to no one in the family eating the same foods.

“We took everyone out in the hallway and they all started feeling better and waking up so I knew it had to be something in the hotel room causing this family to be sick.”

Dennis asked for a carbon monoxide reading to be performed in the room which revealed more than 400 parts per million of carbon monoxide (over 100 parts per million can be dangerous to human health).

After treating the three patients, Dennis started his investigation into several other rooms in the hotel which also revealed high levels of carbon monoxide.

“The hotel room right above the one with the family had a man who was sleeping,” Dennis said. “We woke him up and he was extremely red in the face which is a symptom of carbon monoxide so we asked if we could perform a reading in his room. It turned out in his room he had more than 700 parts per million of carbon monoxide. I have no doubt that if we had not woken him up he would have died.”

Dennis later found the result of the carbon monoxide was coming from pipes in the closet of the hotel room which ran to the basement.

“It was a combination of things causing the carbon monoxide but it was things like a chlorine exchange from where the pipes were running down to the pool heaters,” Dennis said.

Dennis said he later learned a teenage girl staying in the same hotel room as the family had called paramedics the previous day on reports of feeling sick.

“I have responded to a lot of calls during my time as a firefighter and paramedic so you see a lot of different things and learn to act quickly when you are faced with something,” Dennis said.

Dennis said the experience has prompted him to remind individuals about the importance of having carbon monoxide detectors in their home.

“Carbon monoxide is something you can’t smell or can’t detect easily so it is very important to have a detector in your home,” Dennis said. “If any individuals have fuel fed appliances it is imperative to have a detector. Or, if the electricity goes out and you run a generator, you need to have one.”

Dennis said initial symptoms of carbon monoxide can include headaches or body aches, fever and chills.

“A lot of times you think you are coming down with the flu when you have been exposed,” Dennis said. “Your skin can also turn cherry red which is another symptom.”

Dennis said he was honored to receive the award and will use this experience to help with other emergency calls in Hoover and Chilton County.

“Helping individuals is what we are here to do,” Dennis said.