Dallas County first responders meet for bimonthly training

About 25 members of the Dallas County First Responders Association gathered Thursday in Van Meter for the group's bimonthly meeting for networking, dinner and lessons in medical techniques.

Amid high winds and heavy rains, the Van Meter Volunteer Fire Department hosted Thursday’s meeting of the Dallas County First Responders Association.

The volunteer responders meet every other month for networking, dinner and training lessons in medical techniques. About 25 first responders, EMTs and paramedics attended Thursday’s session and shared a dinner of hamburgers, hot dogs and various trimmings.

The association’s full membership numbers about 60, according to Larry Vokes of Adel, president of the Dallas County First Responders Association. Vice President Kari Townsley of Des Moines and Secretary Kelly Larson of Ankeny round out the association’s slate of officers.

Every fire department and EMS department in the county has members, Vokes said. He said first responders — now coming to be called emergency medical responders (EMRs) — and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are volunteers from the local communities, and paramedics are full-time county staff members who draw a salary.

Dallas County EMS Director Mike Tomason, who led Thursday’s training session, said the county’s paramedics “really rely on first responders for many things, from starting treatment to driving to having local knowledge that can save lives.”

Tomason’s subject for the after-dinner training assessment, a topic “that’s not not too sexy but one where first responders can be most helpful.” He took a common symptom — shortness of breath — and discussed about a dozen possible conditions that might cause the symptom.

“Differential diagnosis” by a first responder — knowing whether the shortness of breath is caused by asthma, congestive heart failure or an allergic reaction to a bee sting — “helps get the patient turned toward the right treatment,” Tomason said.

Van Meter Police Officer Erik Faust was among those attending the training. Law enforcement officers are often the first on the scene of medical emergencies, and Faust said the training “is a great asset to the community.”

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