Ambulance services - always on call

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Every day across the world, first responders react to medical emergencies, and are able to save hundreds, even thousands, of lives. This devotion to providing life-saving medical care is why the members of the 509th Medical Operations Squadron ambulance services are always prepared to handle any situation at a moment's notice.

The ambulance services shop maintains 24/7 operations to ensure quick responses at all times throughout the day and night.

"Our shop has at least two Airmen working a 24-hour shift," said Airman 1st Class Joshua Mittelsteadt, 509th MDOS ambulance services technician. "Depending on the situation in the shop after our 24-hour shift, we will have either 24 or 48 hours off."

The ambulance services shop currently has nine members, with one deployed. This makes taking down- time tougher for the technicians.

"With such a small shop, taking leave can be hard because we all have to work around each other," Mittelsteadt said. "Because of this and the fact we are a 24/7 shop, we have to work holidays and base down-days as well."

A typical day begins with the shift member immediately performing a function check on the glucometer and an inventory check on the primary ambulance.

"The shift leader then does an inventory check on the secondary ambulance," Mittelsteadt said. "Throughout the day, the medics perform their individual additional duties, patient emergency room report monitoring, telephone consults, personnel reliability program notifications and assist other clinics with patient care. After clinic hours, the medic performs random checks verifying the building and vehicles are safe and secure."

Ambulance service technicians train continuously to ensure they are prepared for any call.

"We conduct ambulance services-specific training monthly, which consists of equipment and emergency medical technician protocols," Mittelsteadt said. "We also are involved in base exercises that help us stay ready for a variety of situations that can occur. We must ensure we maintain our EMT license and CPR certification, as well."

Mittelsteadt said that on average they respond to seven calls a week, including fire alarms and in-flight emergencies, but that number increases during the summer.

"Summer is our busiest time of year," Mittelsteadt said. "During this time the activity level of the base is much higher, more people are out enjoying the weather, children are playing and an abundance of outdoor sports are being played."

Another major factor during the summer is complications from the heat.

"Last summer we saw temperatures above 100 degrees many times," said Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Pennington, 509th MDOS ambulance services NCO in charge. "This means we will see a lot of heat-related incidents such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration. We want people to ensure they are fully hydrated and follow other tips to be safe during the hot summer."

Ambulance services has two ambulances, a primary and a secondary, and Flight Medicine also has an ambulance that can deploy to situations if needed.

"During a normal shift only one ambulance will deploy to a medical call," Mittelsteadt said. "However, in a mass casualty situation, both ambulances, as well flight medicine's ambulance, can be deployed to the scene."

If there is a situation where an ambulance is on a call and another call comes in, the fire department rescue team will respond.

"As the fire department heads out to the call they will get in contact with Johnson County Ambulance District, who then responds to the base, takes over the medical scene and transports the patient or patients accordingly," Mittelsteadt said.

Pennington believes his Airmen are top-notch and prepared to handle any situation that arises.

"Our Airmen are great," Pennington said. "They have a vast knowledge and are capable of making correct decisions under pressure. They complete the job every day at a high quality and respond to incidents with great speed and accuracy to help in any way they can and potentially save lives."