Staff mitigate storm and smoke

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On Memorial Day, Tri-County Health Care staff responded to a fire at a nearby irrigation facility and severe weather. Staff was warned of the fire and the possibility of chemical gas approaching the hospital. Additionally, a storm producing high winds and the possibility of tornados had the potential to affect the City of Wadena. Staff members mitigate situations like this in a specific way, and Tri-County staff regularly participate in scenarios like this one.

Taking appropriate action

EMS staff departed to assist with the nearby fire. Initially, they began fire rehab, a procedure where EMS supports firefighters by providing first aid, hydration, and a cool place to recover. The storm hit, which prompted EMS staff to take cover. At the Wadena Hospital, staff initiated incident command operations. Members of the administration, EMS, and medical staff evacuated patients to safe areas within the facility. Tri-County completed this task without issue.

Due to the threat of chemical gas entering the facility, maintenance and the engineer on call quickly disabled the ventilation system to stop the potential spread of gas. This process was completed without incident, and all observations indicate that chemical-laced gas did not enter the facility.

The scope of a crisis

“You couldn’t write a scenario like this,” remarked Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Krueger. Krueger is responsible for the mobilization of incident command at Tri-County Health Care. He’s also responsible for training staff to handle scenarios like severe weather and structure fires. Leading up to the storm, Krueger provided detailed information on its movement. His team was instrumental in facilitating evacuation during the crisis.

“Everyone did a fantastic job and everything went according to plan even with the mounting problems in the region” – Thomas Krueger.

After the storm passed, staff received an all-clear message. Evacuation orders lifted, and patients returned to their rooms. Once the threat of gas passed, the ventilation system reactivated, and normal operations resumed. Staff mitigate all-hazards scenarios based on many factors, many of which were present in this crisis. Please visit TCHC.org and our social media accounts for regular updates.


EMS and severe weather

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On May 12, our first taste of spring was interrupted by a barrage of severe weather. Major news sources reported a string of storms across the western part of Minnesota, generating high winds and even tornados. The City of Wadena is no stranger to storms of this nature after being hit by a tornado in 2010. This experience leaves many with looming anxiety whenever the thunderheads roll in. The severe weather downed many trees.In the end, we have no mystical control over the weather. However, we do control how we recover from it. The people of the Wadena area don’t live in fear of nature. We accept it and band together to overcome it. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) week is here, and what better way to celebrate than by taking a look at how EMS and severe weather can change your life in an instant.

Monitoring

EMS staff are responsible for the safety of patients and staff within Tri-County Health Care. This responsibility requires constant vigilance. In addition to situational awareness, they use a series of alert systems to get immediate notifications of incoming severe weather. Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Krueger always has his eyes on the sky and his radio handy. He is always in communication with the Central Minnesota Hospital Preparedness Coalition, a relationship that allows for a safer, better healthcare system.

Seeking shelter

The storm eventually passed, and the sun rose once again. The pleasant spring weather illuminated avenues of downed trees and mounds of insulation tossing in the wind. The storm passed, but it left its mark. Some buildings appeared to have their roofs cleaved off, leaving a disfigured maw of shingles and lumber. Hours earlier, the sky turned a pungent grey, followed by wind. EMS jumped into action to minimize hazards. They initiated storm safety procedures which involved EMS staff systematically informing patients and staff of the incoming storm. Then, the crew assisted in moving patients to the appropriate pre-designated shelter zones.

More than a few buildings received roof damage that stormy night. Krueger was asked what would happen if the storm damaged the roof of the hospital or clinic. What would we do?

“Staff and patients will hopefully be in a “Shelter-In-Place” mode and will have been evacuated to either the tunnel or Post-Anesthesia Recovery unit (safe interior space). In the event of a “direct strike”, there is a plan for setting up an Alternate Care Site in the community to continue to care for our patients in the short-term. We would also rely on mutual aid with our CMHPC coalition partner facilities to assist in a disaster of this type for both hospital and EMS services.” – Thomas Krueger, Emergency Management Coordinator

EMS and severe weather.

EMS tips for a safe clean up

  • Wear the appropriate clothes. Avoid scrapes and bruises by wearing long-sleeved garments and jeans. Boots, gloves, and a hat are also highly recommended.
  • Be safe with power tools. Some people tend to ignore basic safety in the aftermath of a disaster. Don’t be one of those people. Use proper eye protection if you plan on clearing trees.
  • Storms that generate high winds can make a huge mess. They can even damage power lines and dislodge nails. Situational awareness is critical. Tread carefully and if you see a downed power line, do not approach it; instead, notify the local power authority.
  • Stay hydrated! You need water to function, so keep a water bottle nearby.

EMS deal with severe weather all the time!

EMS and severe weather are here to stay, so remember to watch for bad storms this summer and beyond. Also, take some time to thank the men and women of EMS for all they do in our communities. Please visit TCHC.org and follow Tri-County Health Care on social media for more information.

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First aid kit: Building a lifesaver box

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Solid preparation and safety are a part of the Minnesota way. Everyone should make a concerted effort to protect their health. Having access to a first aid kit should be taken just as seriously as fire alarms and flashlights. You never know when disaster may strike, but you can be ready to take on the brunt of injuries and illness that come with it.

Should I buy or build?

Browsing through the dozens of premade first aid kits online can be a fun time sink, but nothing will ever beat the DIY approach. This is an opportunity to make the kit of your dreams, complete with every tool or gadget needed to suit your lifestyle. The first aid kit a car mechanic needs in his shop may differ significantly from a suburban housewife’s in a drawer by the sink. As a bonus, by choosing pieces individually, you can maintain a higher level of quality control while truly learning the inner workings of your kit.

Only the essentials

Building a first aid can be a great family activity.

Building a first aid kit can be a great family activity.

Tri-County Health Care Emergency Medical Services Manager Cole Lugert weighed in on the topic and shared some of the essential items he believes should be in every personalized first aid kit. Find his list below.

  • Band-Aids
  • Gauze
  • Medical tape
  • A towel
  • Tourniquet

Additionally, Cole stressed the need to choose the best location for the kit. Just throwing it in the closet or on a shelf under your socket set isn’t good enough. Place the items in a secure watertight case of some kind. They should be kept away from liquids and storage temperature should always be considered. Ultimately, the best place is one you won’t forget and can be accessed quickly in stressful situations.

Personalize it!

Make the kit your own by adding items specifically tailored to the health needs of you and your family. Furthermore, make sure to include special medications, inhalers and EpiPen’s. Just be careful not to overpack the kit. While packing, ask yourself, Do I need this item? Do I even know how to use it? Be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to seek out additional training.

Use the American Red Cross as a guide for more information on first aid kits and watch the video below.


A matter of life or death

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By Jessica Sly, Communications Specialist

 

The start of a new year is typically a time of eager anticipation and the promise of new beginnings. For Thomas and Tammy Williams, it was a time of terror and the very real possibility of loss.

Near the end of December, Thomas had a tonsillectomy to remove his tonsils and a septoplasty to straighten his nose for better airflow. The procedures went off without a hitch, and he was discharged on the 30th.

On the evening of Jan. 1, while recovering from surgery at his home near Henning, Thomas started to cough. Tammy believes that the force dislodged the healing scabs in his throat. He began bleeding severely and heaving up blood.

Tammy immediately called 911.

The Henning ambulance picked them up and rushed toward Tri-County Health Care. The TCHC ambulance met them along the way. By the time they got to Wadena, Thomas was unresponsive with a dangerously low blood pressure. He entered hypovolemic shock as they pulled into the ambulance garage, having lost so much blood that his heart couldn’t circulate enough to sustain him.

“Dr. Faith was working that night,” Tammy recalled, “and he said it was a matter of life or death.”A photo of Thomas Williams, who was saved by the TCHC emergency department, with his family posing for a photo on the frozen lake.

With experience as a registered nurse, Tammy knew the gravity of Thomas’ condition. Her mind ran wild as she watched the staff pump Thomas with fluids and blood, hoping to stabilize him.

“I must have looked white because someone pushed up a chair behind me,” she said. “They knew exactly what I needed. That’s just a tiny example of all that they did for us.”

As the team brought Thomas’ blood pressure up, they called for a helicopter to bring him to St. Cloud for emergency surgery.

“It was surreal, but it wasn’t as stressful as it could have been,” Tammy said. “I was impressed with their calmness, quickness and professionalism.”

Tammy couldn’t ride with her husband in the helicopter, so it was imperative for her to see him off and say goodbye in case he didn’t make it to his destination. Their two children, ages 18 and 24, and daughter-in-law were on their way to the hospital when they were held up by a train. By then, the helicopter had arrived and was ready to take Thomas away.

“Dr. Faith said they would wait for them,” Tammy said. “He and the ED staff were so considerate of the whole situation. They waited for the kids to come and tell Thomas goodbye.”

Thomas arrived in St. Cloud and was rushed to surgery to cauterize his wounds and stop the bleeding. The procedure was successful. He was discharged the next day and returned home with his wife and children. The remainder of his recovery went smoothly.

“When a situation like that happens, if someone wasn’t quick enough or if the team didn’t work, it could have been a different story,” Tammy said. “(Without the EMS and ED staff,) Thomas would have been gone. It was the whole team working as a well-oiled machine. They are the whole package. We’re so thankful.”


Stop the bleeding, save lives

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By Mike Ittner, NR, Paramedic, TCHC Emergency Preparedness Coordinator

Did you know that when injuries occur during emergencies and man-made and natural disasters, major bleeding is the second-leading cause of death?

photo of the TCHC EMS team standing in front of a TCHC ambulanceWith this in mind, TCHC’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS) is joining a national Stop the Bleed campaign to raise awareness and prepare the public for cases of major bleeding.

Free resources

TCHC EMS is championing this campaign in Wadena, Todd and Otter Tail counties by offering free Stop the Bleed kits and free education to anyone in the tri-county area who needs it.

Each Stop the Bleed kit has gloves, absorbent gauze and tourniquets, as well as a flyer containing first aid tips. When we deliver the kit, we will provide free training on how to use the items and the best methods for controlling bleeding. One of our main goals is to put a Stop the Bleed kit wherever there is an AED, but anyone with a need is welcome to request one.

You can make a difference

Victims of a massive bleed can die within five to 10 minutes if it isn’t controlled. Serious bleeding could be caused by a number of incidents, including falls, shop accidents, car crashes and man-made or natural disasters.

One of the core components of the Stop the Bleed campaign is to educate potential bystanders. Despite how quickly emergency responders arrive, witnesses are always the first people at a scene, so their quick action could be the difference between life and death for a victim.

The more blood we keep in the body, the better chance a person has of surviving. Our free kits allow bystanders to immediately begin life-saving measures by controlling a bleed until emergency responders arrive. Anyone can save lives if they know what to do.photo of the actual stop the bleed kit

Increasing safety

This Stop the Bleed campaign will help us further increase safety for the public, and we hope community members will take advantage of these free kits and training.

I want to give a huge thank you to the local VFW, American Legion, Lions, Elks, St. Helen’s Episcopal Church, First Congregational United Church of Christ Lamson fund and the Tri-County Health Care Foundation, all of whom donated funds to make our Stop the Bleed kits possible.

To request a Stop the Bleed kit, give me a call at 218-631-7464.

Stop the Bleed is a national campaign started by a workgroup of The White House National Security Council.

For more information, visit bleedingcontrol.org.

 

photo of Mike Ittner, EMS managerAbout the Author: Mike Ittner, a retired member of the U.S. Armed Forces, is currently the EMS manager. He received his EMT training from Tri-County EMS, completed his paramedic training and has been associated with Tri-County EMS for seven years.


Emergency Service Personnel Recognized for Dedication to their Communities

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More than 90 EMS personnel from local fire, rescue and police departments attended Tri-County Health Care’s 30th annual Emergency Medical Service (EMS) program. The event was held on Tuesday, March 14 at M-State, Wadena campus.

“This event is a chance to have an educational opportunity, hear from guest speakers, and also recognize area personnel,” said Mike Ittner, Tri-County Health Care EMS Manager. “This is the 30th year that we’ve been able to recognize the many dedicated men and women who do heroic things on a daily basis.”

Speakers included John Pate, M.D., Tri-County Health Care EMS Medical Director; Mike Ittner, Tri-County Health Care EMS Manager, and three area residents that have personally been impacted by EMS personnel who’ve helped a loved one.

Several EMS awards were also presented to area personnel:

  • Star of Life – (The Star of Life award is given to emergency personnel for making an extremely noteworthy contribution to efforts which resulted in saving a life.)
    • Menahga First Response, Menahga Police, & Wadena County Dispatch
    • Menahga Lifeguards, Menahga First Responders, Menahga Police, Wadena County Sheriff, Wadena County Dispatch, & Menahga Fire
    • Bertha Ambulance & Todd County Dispatch
    • Sebeka Rescue, Wadena County Sheriff, & Wadena County Dispatch
  • Bear Award
    • Dave Cuppy & Chad Olson
  • Years of Service Star (In appreciation of loyal and dedicated service)
  • 15 Years: Dave Cuppy

EMS night is a free event held every March sponsored by Tri-County Health Care Emergency Medical Services and Central Minnesota EMS Region.

To learn more about the Tri-County Emergency Medical Services click here: http://www.tchc.org/what-we-offer/emergency-medical-services.