Firefighters learn triage at Sasebo Naval Base
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Suppose a van full of people crashes into a building or wall on base, flips and leaves the driver and nine passengers strewn about the road shoulder.
Someone calls 911. The Sasebo detachment of the Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan Regional Fire Department is the first to respond — a role the unit assumed by launching the Ambulance Support Service on April 1 to augment the base ambulance service already in place.
When the firefighters arrive, there is a teaming mess of pain, blood and confusion. What’s a firefighter to do?
Sasebo’s firefighters are going to class this month to find out.
Each week, about 150 firefighters, divided into smaller groups, are attending triage classes to learn how to prioritize treatment at the scene of an emergency with multiple injuries. Expert personnel from Sasebo’s Navy Branch Medical Clinic teach the classes.
“The whole idea for these firefighters as they learn triage is to determine where they can do the most good, for the most people and as fast as they possibly can,” said Chief Petty Officer Gordon Dziewit, who conducted last week’s training session for 40 firefighters.
The triage training, held in the base Community and Education Center, pertained to the condition categories of triage. Firefighters learned to affix color-coded triage tags to individuals to indicate the seriousness of their conditions. Green meant there was no emergency; yellow, a serious injury; red, an extremely serious condition; black signified the individual likely would die or was dead.
For example, Dziewit said, “In the case of a total amputation, the very first thing you’d use is the tourniquet. Right away.” Demonstrating, he said, “You go to the tourniquet first because of the heavy bleeding. With that injury, they could bleed out rapidly otherwise.” The triage tag, he said, would be red.
Most firefighters getting the triage training are Japanese employees so a translator attends each session.
“We have all gone through the emergency first aid training, so we are taking this a step further with medical coming and teaching us how to perform triage,” said Drillmaster Thomas Epperson, a fire department officer attending the session.
U.S. firefighters commonly train in emergency medical response and often attend to serious medical emergencies, Chief Fire Inspector Jerry Clark has explained.
The next triage training session is to cover basic first aid techniques used in situations requiring triage, Dziewit said. However, officials said, the firefighters are not trained to the level of paramedics and will not administer drugs or perform intubations, such as inserting a tube into the larnyx to admit air.
The month of triage training is to culminate April 30 with a large-scale emergency medical response exerciserequiring firefighters to use their newly learned triage abilities.