Chesterton Tribune


Burns Harbor Fire now offers advanced lifesaving services

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At 9:28 a.m. Saturday a Porter County radio dispatcher advised area emergency services that Burns Harbor’s new ALS ambulance is now available to respond.

The message, played over a loudspeaker at the Burns Harbor fire station, prompted applause from approximately 30 persons assembled for a ceremony marking the town’s milestone.

“This is a very important day for us in Burns Harbor in what I feel is another giant step in public safety for our community,” said fire chief Bill Arney.

“This has been no small task and hats off to these guys for pulling this off,” said Porter Regional Hospital emergency room physician Dr. Dave Cummins, who serves as medical director for Burns Harbor’s ambulance service.

He said paramedic advanced life support is the standard of ambulance care in the country today “and these guys will be second to none.”

The town Fire Department has operated a separate basic-life-support ambulance since 2006 and will continue to do so.

Cummins said BLS allows certified responders to offer limited first aid like CPR and oxygen. ALS enables specially trained paramedics to do more like cardiac monitoring, start IVs, administer medication and provide advanced airway support.

Arney emphasized that the town’s new ALS service will assist, not compete with, other Porter County ambulance providers that have mutual aid agreements and operate as one larger team. “The ideal is to lower response times (and) give the best patient care we can.”

Burns Harbor deputy fire chief Brian Beach will serve as his department’s chief paramedic and oversee its program. Fifty-three employees, nearly all part-time, will staff the 24-hour ambulance service. “It’s not a moneymaker. It’s not going to make the town rich or sink the town either,” Beach told the crowd.

The Town Council appropriated $125,000 this spring to buy the ALS ambulance, necessary equipment and fund salaries through year’s end. Paramedic staffing for one year is estimated to cost about $250,000 and the council is giving the ALS service one year to prove itself financially. Patients using the service are charged a fee.

Arney thanked the Town Council for its financial commitment and confidence in the Fire Department, and local businesses including ArcelorMittal and Praxair for about $50,000 in cash donations to the ambulance service. Les Swanson, in charge of fire protection at the Mittal plant, said they are very excited about the ALS service and believe it will help them out.

Town Council members Jeff Freeze and Mike Perrine as well as clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan were present Saturday.

Perrine, liaison to the Fire Department, said Burns Harbor is becoming a bedroom community for Chicago and as resources in Porter County get stretched as the population grows, “In emergency medical service, a delay can have catastrophic consequences.”

He also commended the Fire Department for being one of the best, and said vehicles and equipment alone won’t save lives. “These are tools dedicated and hardworking people use because they love this town and the fire service.”

It’s reassuring, added Perrine, that Burns Harbor’s largest corporations can be counted on to respond when the town has special needs.

Jordan was recognized for playing a large part in the new service; although ambulance fees are billed through a third party, the money collected is deposited by her into a non-reverting town fund and she has increased payroll responsibilities for the many additional employees.


Posted 11/5/2012