Responding to Emergencies Involving Bariatric Patients

It must be a sign of the times. More and more fire departments are implementing bariatric ambulances to accommodate the ever-increasing number of morbidly obese patients. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC...


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Whenever a firefighter/paramedic on another ambulance calls for a bariatric ambulance using any or all of the criteria in the previous paragraph, the engine company that is housed with the bariatric ambulance brings it to the scene as a task force and assists with the patient all the way to delivery at the hospital. Once its duties at the hospital are completed, the task force returns to the station with the first ambulance crew’s ambulance. Once the first ambulance crew is done with the bariatric unit at the hospital, it returns to the station housing the bariatric ambulance and swaps back into its original ambulance, leaving the bariatric ambulance at the station where it is normally housed.

Even though America continues to be health conscious and nutrition labels adorn our food products with the number of calories and carbohydrates, it is apparent that firefighters will continue to manage the care of bariatric patients for some time to come. The use of bariatric ambulances and equipment will surely provide safety for the firefighter while providing dignity for the patient.

GARY LUDWIG, MS, EMT-P, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a deputy fire chief with the Memphis, TN, Fire Department. He is chair of the EMS Section for the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), was appointed to the National EMS Advisory Council by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and is a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) EMS Standing Committee. Ludwig has a master’s degree in business and management and is a licensed paramedic. He can be reached at www.garyludwig.com.