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Fire districts implement program with life-saving potential

By: Jim Erickson


Gillian Satkus and Brad Shelton from the Metro West Fire Protection District display a tote being used in connection with its Special needs Tracking and Awareness Response System.

Gillian Satkus and Brad Shelton from the Metro West Fire Protection District display a tote being used in connection with its Special needs Tracking and Awareness Response System.

Seconds often count in emergency medical situations, and two local fire protection districts are implementing a program to  make sure time counts in favor of the patient.

The Monarch and Metro West fire protection districts have launched the Special needs Tracking and Awareness Response System (STARS) to help paramedics provide better care to individuals with special needs, from infancy to age 21. Other districts in the area also are considering STARS or are in the process of implementing it.

Every person entered into the program has a form that is kept in ambulances that the districts operate. The document describes the individual’s medical history, medications, allergies, baseline vital signs,  neurological status and common medical emergencies. Each person also is assigned a number that corresponds with his or her medical information form.

Should a medical emergency arise involving someone registered in the program, the caller gives the 911 dispatcher that number, which is relayed to the responding paramedic team.

Having the patient’s medical information in advance can be vital, especially when that person’s regular caregiver is not present. Some patients’ situations also could serve to identify additional training needs for emergency crews, said Gillian Satkus, a Metro West firefighter/paramedic coordinating that district’s STARS program.

Patients most likely to benefit are those with significant developmental delays, seizure disorders, cardiac history, cerebral shunts, tracheostomies and other atypical diseases or syndromes.

Metro West is working with Rockwood, Parkway and private schools in the district and through its social media and website to publicize the program’s availability.

Satkus said she will make an appointment to visit a person’s home to explain how the program works.  Interested parents also may visit Metro West’s headquarters office at 17065 Manchester Road.

Monarch also invites persons to visit its headquarters at 13725 Olive Blvd. to sign up for the program or contact the district’s headquarters at (314) 514-0900 to arrange for a home visit by a paramedic who can help with the registration process.

Program information is included in Monarch’s latest newsletter, distributed to residences throughout the district.

Both districts offer the opportunity for any child with special needs, who may have anxiety about an ambulance, to tour the vehicle and see the equipment it carries.

Neither district now has specific data on the number of individuals with special needs that the program ultimately will reach.

“The only thing we know for sure is that there are more (people requiring this service) out there than we now know about,” said Brad Shelton, Metro West battalion chief and chief medical officer. “That’s another reason why this program is so important.”

Metro West serves all or portions of Ballwin, Chesterfield, Clarkson Valley, Ellisville, Wildwood, Winchester and unincorporated St. Louis County. Monarch’s service area includes all or portions of Chesterfield, Clarkson Valley, Ballwin, Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights, Wildwood and unincorporated St. Louis County.

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