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The first call of their shift on Jan. 9 turned out to be an interesting and unusual one for Capt. Casey Meadows and other members of the Minot Fire Department. In a good way.
They didn’t respond to the scene of a heartbreaking fire, or a tragic accident. Instead, the crew was part of something much more positive.
“We were dispatched out for a call of a female who had just given birth. In that scenario, we assume the baby’s been delivered, and that’s what we found on this call,” Meadows said.
When firefighters arrived on the scene at a local motel, the baby had indeed been born, and both mother and baby were in good condition.
“You might get a handful of these calls in a career, so you might have a little flash of being like a deer in the headlights, but then your training kicks in and you get right to work,” Meadows added.
The crew members quickly put their medical training to use.
“Our first step was to double check vital signs on the mother and infant and make sure the infant’s airway was clear,” Meadows recounted. “After that, we move on to preparing the umbilical cord to be cut and making sure both mom and baby are clean and warm.”
The firefighters stayed on scene to assist in any way they could after an ambulance crew arrived and took over treatment.
“In my six-plus years in this job, I’ve been on three of these calls. These are some of the coolest calls we get. A lot of our calls are people’s worst days, but these calls are the opposite because it’s a happy outcome,” Meadows said. “The really cool part is when you say on your report that there were two people transported and everyone is doing well.”
The call was also good timing for the firefighters; in December they completed a training simulation on obstetrics through a simulation trailer operated by the North Dakota Department of Health’s Division of Emergency Medical Systems. The call was also another reminder that he department’s motto of “Trained, maintained, and ready” is something firefighters live with every day.
“One of our department’s core values is to be adaptable. Every situation is different and we rely on our training and experience to adapt to any situation we encounter for the best possible outcome,” Fire Chief Kelli Kronschnabel said. “Many times we are dispatched for one type of emergency and we find something completely different when we arrive.”
Meadows agreed, adding that training and preparation can save precious time during an emergency.
“We train for the worst case scenario, but we always hope for the best case scenario,” Meadows said. “On the way to the scene, we were discussing potential complications for the mother and the child, and how we could potentially respond. There’s always the chance for complications, and that’s why we do our training. The simulation truck is about as close to the real thing as you can get.”
In addition to their near-constant training on various scenarios, firefighters have also adapted to being potentially exposed to coronavirus when they respond to a call for service.
“We assume we’ll come into contact with someone who is positive in all of our calls, even if they don’t know they are positive,” Meadows said. “We wear N95 masks, we make sure we have proper eye protection, we make sure our gloves are good, and we double check that we all have proper personal protection equipment.”
After a call, equipment and other items potentially exposed to COVID-19 are cleaned and sanitized, with disposable items properly discarded. The used N95 masks are sent to a company to be decontaminated and returned to use.
At this point, after nearly a year of taking extra precautions, protecting themselves and others against COVID-19 is part of firefighters’ routine.
“We train for these scenarios and we are ready to put that training into use if necessary,” Meadows said. “From fire scenarios to medical assists to a routine lift assistance call, we are trained to provide the best service possible to the citizens of Minot. That’s our job.”