Did You Know?

Orcas Island Fire & Rescue provides additional services to our community outside of responding to 911 calls. When we respond to an emergency call, some questions arise regarding how we figure out pertinent information. We need to know your name, what your medical history includes, and what treatments you desire. Where would we find this information if our patient were unconscious or incapacitated?

In the event of a medical emergency, information is vital. There may not be time to search for critical paperwork or information. What if you are not able to communicate with emergency responders?

OIFR can provide you with a packet to help first responders get this crucial information during an emergency. One key component of this packet is the “The Lifesaving Information For Emergencies (LIFE) Medical Form.” The LIFE form is completed by you before you suffer a medical emergency and gives our first responders the critical information they need in order to provide you with the best care. Once you have completed the packet, we recommend placing the enclosed LIFE magnet on your freezer door and placing the plastic pouch in your freezer. The refrigerator or freezer door is one of the first places first responders will look when no one on scene can give us that information. We also check patients for medical alert bracelets, necklaces, and cards of information kept in wallets. While you may want to eventually complete a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), Advance Directive, or Power of Attorney (POA) for Health Care, having the LIFE Form we provide completed and clearly accessible is a great place to start. We ask that you keep it current and share its location with your loved ones.  People of any age should consider preparing a directive to inform family and physicians of their wishes. If no information can be found, the default will be full resuscitation treatment.

You can plan ahead by stopping by the Fire Hall in Eastsound to pick up a LIFE Form/POLST packet at no cost. Included in the packet is a handy magnet labeled “LIFE FORMS Location: _________.” We recommend placing the forms in the plastic bag we provide and tucking it into your freezer, placing the magnet on the outside. If you want to keep them in a different location, we ask you to write that on the magnet and put it on the outside of the freezer because that is where we will look first.

What is in a LIFE Form/POLST packet?

The LIFE Form lists all the pertinent information the Emergency Responders would ask you. These include emergency contacts, primary physicians, hospital preferences, allergies, medications, implants, or joint replacements. We also include a pamphlet on the signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.

A POLST form is something that you will work with your healthcare provider to complete. We want those with a POLST to understand that it needs to be signed by your physician, ARNP, or PA-C, AND you must have a copy on hand. Many have told us their doctor has it on file, but that will not help emergency responders when responding to your emergency. We will need to see the signed directive to follow it.

You may want to add other documents to your LIFE FORMS packet, including your Advance Directives or “Living Will,” your Power of Attorney for Health Care, if you have them.

OIFR recommends membership in all three air transport services: Island Air, Airlift Northwest, and Lifeflight. We include information on membership for all three of these services in the packet. When there is an emergency, air medical transport is often the most efficient way to get a patient to definitive care.  The time we have, the medical situation, the weather, and the receiving hospital all go into choosing which air transport will be the most appropriate on a case-by-case basis.

In addition to medical information, we suggest putting down contact information for your housekeeper, house/pet sitter, or friendly neighbor. Who can we call to water your plants or lock up your house? Have you thought about who could take your pets so that they are looked after while you are gone?

One of the other programs that OIFR provides is Mobile Integrated Healthcare (MIH). An aspect of mobile integrated healthcare teams is the continuum of care concept. The MIH model provides healthcare support within the community rather than at a physician’s office or hospital. The success of the MIH program has shown that EMS providers, working as a unified team with in-hospital and other community health care providers, can improve patient outcomes, increase patient satisfaction, and reduce health care costs.

The MIH program provides assistance in the following areas: Care coordination for chronic disease conditions, post-hospital discharge follow-up and needs assessment, fall prevention and home safety assessment, referral support for home health or hospice, and medication review for safety and adherence.

If you are interested in learning more about the MIH program, call 360-762-5035 or email MIH@orcasfire.org for more information.

Two other excellent resources on Orcas Island provide a plethora of programs; These include the Senior Center (Jami Mitchell, Senior Services Specialist for Orcas, 360-376-7926, email jamim@sanjuanco.com, or visit orcasseniors.org) and the Orcas Community Resource Center (360-376-3184, email info@orcascrc.org or visit orcascrc.org). Please get in touch with them directly for more information.

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