Pa. volunteer fire department gets ALS license

The fire department is one of eight in Pennsylvania to be licensed as an advanced life support squad

By Stacy Wolford
The Valley Independent

ROSCOE, Pa. — First responders know that when it comes to saving lives, every second counts.

That passion for helping others prompted Roscoe Volunteer Fire Company's leaders to expand service to a new level.

Roscoe is one of only eight fire departments in Pennsylvania – and the first in the Mon Valley – to be licensed as an advanced life support squad.

Chief Larry Pollock said the department now has the ability to provide better medical treatment.

With the ALS license, the firefighters can administer medication vital to survival in emergency situations. They also can employ defibrillation equipment for cardiac arrest victims.

“We can perform more advanced procedures,” said Pollock, a paramedic who works as a prehospital coordinator and educator at UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh. “It's very beneficial to the patients that need the advanced life support.”

Roscoe, with a population of 812 according to the 2010 census, and Peters Township (population 21,213) are the only ALS fire departments in Washington County. With about 30 firefighters – 12 of whom are either paramedics or emergency medical technicians – Roscoe also serves Elco and Long Branch.

Pollock said he is proud of the accomplishment.

“We're one of the smallest fire departments in the area, and I think it's our training and the commitment of our members that enabled us to get this license,” Pollock said. “Everyone had a hand in this.”

Assistant Chief Brian Billy and former Chief Todd Mauk began the application process through the state Department of Health about six months ago. “It's a very long process, and we had to have an inspection by a regional EMS board,” said Billy, a Long Branch resident and a paramedic and supervisor with Rostraver/West Newton Emergency Services.

Four firefighters are ALS licensed: Billy, Mauk, Pollock and Holly Yauch, a registered nurse. Mauk is a paramedic with a UPMC paramedic response team. UPMC Dr. Chris Martin-Gill is Roscoe's volunteer adviser. As a requirement of ALS licensing, Martin-Gill provides the firefighters with medical training, reviews their medical calls and is on standby if they need help with a patient.

Pollock said the department can provide the same life-saving support as ambulance personnel. Its ALS truck is equipped with an electrocardiogram machine, about 30 medications, intravenous and airway equipment and breathing tubes.

“It really, truly is a duplication of an ambulance,” Pollock said.

He said the department obtained equipment – worth about $25,000 – through donations and fundraisers such as its Friday night bingo.

“Without the support of the community, we wouldn't have this for them,” said Pollock, adding the department recently sent mailers for its annual donation drive.

Pollock said the department chose not to seek licensing that would permit it to transfer patients to hospitals.

“We didn't want to step on the toes of any of the ambulance services. We work with them,” Pollock said.

He said the fire department frequently is first on the scene. But in the past – with a basic life support license – the firefighters could only provide such basic medical procedures as first aid and oxygen.

“Even though we are paramedics, we could not start IVs or carry this equipment on a truck,” Pollock said.

The chief said the department still depends on firefighter/EMTs such as Allan Waraksa of Elco and Sean Robert Whiten of Stockdale to administer basic life support. The department recently had its first medical call using the combined training.

“We had an unresponsive male who fell and hit his head. We were able to put him on the EKG monitor, start an IV, and (Waraksa) was able to give rescue breathing,” Pollock said. “We all work together. We want to do everything we can to help the people in our communities.”


©2015 The Valley Independent (Monessen, Pa.)

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