Power Units Help EMS Crews Respond To Overdoses

Posted at 6:52 PM, Oct 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-13 19:52:57-04

It's always a race against time to save someone from an emergency. With opioid abuse rampant in Tennessee, responding to overdoses keeps crews working nonstop, and cutting down response time is vital.

One resource that's always on the move is helping a Mid-State agency.

“You can almost tell when there's a new batch or a bad batch of drugs that come down this way,” said Steven Pope, a paramedic in Rutherford County.

For emergency crews in Rutherford County, the opioid crisis has kept them busy, and response is endless.

“He was breathing four times a minute,” Pope said about an overdose. “The guy was found unresponsive. He was actually brought to a fire department.”

But the mission to get there as fast as possible is becoming more vital.

“Some are stronger than others, and they don't realize what they get,” Brandon Smith, of Rutherford County EMS, said.

Like in all parts of the state, more people are dying of overdoses, especially involving fentanyl.

There is a chance to save them thanks to Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Rutherford County EMS isn't taking any chances.

For about a year, the department has been using what's called “power units” during the day.

“It's helpful because they're first line right there ready to go,” Smith said. “Time does matter.”

They're extra teams ready to respond during peak times.

“They go out into the neighborhoods and they’re high visibility on the streets, so when a call for service comes in, they're the first ones that get the call,” Smith said.

They're not waiting at any of the stations. They’re already roaming the streets waiting for those calls.

“They're already in the trucks and moving and get there pretty quickly,” Smith said.

Officials said it's making a difference. An average response time in Rutherford County is about eight minutes.

The deputy director of EMS said with the power units, it’s able to go down to 7.5 or 7.2 minutes. It's a slight change, but when it comes to emergencies, every second matters.

So far, Rutherford County EMS has two power units. The deputy director of EMS said Metro and surrounding cities also have them.