Jemison becomes only fire department in the state to carry blood on ambulance

Published 1:16 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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By JOYANNA LOVE | Managing Editor

Jemison Fire Department has become the only fire department in Alabama to carry blood on its ambulance.

“As far as I know, there are only two, maybe three EMS agencies in the whole state, ground agencies, that are carrying blood,” Jemison Fire Chief John Dennis said. “… We are the only one in this whole Central Alabama region for sure, and the only fire department in this state carrying blood. The others are private EMS agencies.”

Blood would be administered to patients who are in danger of losing too much blood due to a traumatic injury or a medical condition during transport to the hospital.

“It is exciting to me to be able to provide an increased level of care that will benefit our citizens,” Dennis said.

State EMS protocols changed in the spring of 2022 to allow the fire department ambulance to carry blood. However, the department still needed the equipment to properly handle the blood and use it for patients who needed it.

This equipment included a special cooler and a device that warms the blood before it goes into the patient through an IV-type tubing. Dennis said the blood has to be stored at 39 degrees. The Jemison City Council approved purchasing the final needed piece, the blood warmer, in February.

“Our city council and mayor have been very supportive to allow us to purchase this,” Dennis said.

Paramedics completed a day of training before using the equipment.

“We already have protocols in place to administer blood,” Dennis said. “We have just never had the blood to carry.”

JFD has a total of six paramedics, all of which were trained on the equipment.

“We have been able to carry IV fluids that help expand the volume of the blood in the circulatory system to where we can maintain blood pressures and keep things going, but those IV fluids … are not able to carry oxygen,” Dennis said. “Without oxygen, the cells, tissue and organs begin to die. Blood is able to carry that oxygen to the organs and the tissues.”

This is especially important for trauma patients on days when a medical helicopter cannot be used because of weather conditions. Medical helicopters carry blood and use it to help stabilize a patient during transport to a hospital. Now, JFD will be able to do this, “and give that patient a better chance” of survival, Dennis said.

Dennis has wanted the department to be able to do this for years.

The department has contracted with LifeSouth Community Blood Centers to purchase blood. If the department has blood it does not use within 30 days, then LifeSouth will exchange it for new blood, Dennis said. The older blood will be taken to a hospital, which is likely to need it right away. This keeps blood from being wasted.

Jemison Fire Department is averaging 125 calls a month. Dennis said approximately 80-85% of that are medical needs.