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ESD#1 reaches out to community with new equipment, focus

By BOBBY HORN JR.
They often meet people on possibly the worst day of their lives.
But, through years of training and the latest in medical equipment, the staff of the Emergency Services District #1 is ready to handle any emergency that comes through northeast Houston/ Harris County.
The first district of its kind in the state, ESD#1 has a staff of 51, 98% of which are paid who are ready 24/7 to answer the call of someone who is in need.
These crews service an area bordered by the Sam Houston Race Park on the west to Summerwood in the east and from FM 1960 in the north to the Houston city limits. Within this area there are approximately 500,000 residents. A recent survey shows that on any given day, 33 percent of the residents in Harris County pass through the district.
Keeping up with the approximately 1,600 calls they take each month requires a large fleet. Among the 14 ambulances that make up the fleet are two special vehicles that they acquired over the past few months.
New Equipment
Troy Parks, EMS supervisor, said that last year they sent an ambulance to New Orleans to assist in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. While there they discovered how restrictive an ambulance, which at best can serve two patients at a time, could be in a mass casualty scenario.

Bringing this information back, they took on the project of bringing a mass casualty unit to the county. With the appearance of an RV on the outside, the vehicle is all business inside. With a capacity of seven patients at one time Parks said they are ready to handle any natural or man-made disaster that occurs. The mass casualty unit is also the only one of its kind in Harris County.
A couple of months ago, the ESD#1 added another specialized ambulance to their fleet. The Critical Care Unit vehicle is designed especially for transporting critically ill patients from one facility to another. Looking like an ambulance on steroids, the vehicle is built on a heavy-duty chassis with a larger patient area. This larger area is key to transporting the IV’s, monitors and other medical equipment a critical care patient would need to maintain while in transport.
The critical care unit does not come cheap. A stripped down version of the unit costs about $128,000. Then comes the paint and equipment needed to put it in service.
Getting into the community
The ESD#1 is not just about transporting patients or rescuing victims from accidents.
Parks said that they are working to be an active partner in the community. Over the summer the mass casualty unit has been visiting schools within Aldine ISD to provide fitness exams students which are required for athletics. The vehicle has been to Aldine and MacArthur High as well as Aldine Middle and Plummer Middle School.
Parks said they offered this service because they knew that it is hard for students to get to a doctor or clinic for the required exams, so they wanted to help facilitate a convenient and low-cost alternative.
These exams brought forth a health concern which the ESD#1 would like to take on as a community project.
Many of the students, Parks said, had vision issues. Parks said they would like to partner with local optometrists and other businesses to provide low cost exams and glasses for the students.
Other projects in the works for the ESD#1 is a mass CPR training and car seat project. Parks said that would like to set aside a day where they can teach parents how to properly install car seats and that if they could get some donations, provide car seats to those who could not afford them.