Firefighters in Guelph are now equipped with naloxone, a potentially life-saving medication that can be used to counter the effects of opioid overdose.
As of Sunday, all of the Guelph Fire Department’s responding vehicles now have a naloxone kit on board and every firefighter has been trained in its use, said fire chief Dave Elloway.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Guelph firefighters would utilize airway management techniques as the primary treatment for a drug overdose, said Elloway.
“With COVID-19, administering naloxone during a drug overdose is a safer practice, lessening the probability of exposure to the virus for first responders,” he said. “The health and safety of our residents and staff is our priority.”
Now, if firefighters are first on the scene of an overdose the medication can be administered without waiting for paramedics.
The recommendation to equip fire departments with naloxone came from the Centre for Paramedic Excellence and Research (CPER), which provides firefighters in Ontario with medical oversight.
Elloway said the fire department will continue to work together with Guelph Wellington Paramedic Services to provide frontline medical assistance in the City of Guelph.
“Both agencies receive medical oversight from CPER, so there is a consistency of approach to overdose patient management,” he said.
Firefighters carry only a Narcan nasal spray version of the medication, while the paramedics carry an injectable version that can also be attached to a nasal atomizer to be used as a nasal spray.
Elloway said the department will monitor the new program and adapt as required.
The Guelph Police Service began carrying naloxone in 2017.
Firefighters trained to administer naloxone is a good news story, said Adrienne Crowder, manager of the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy.
“Reversing an overdose as quickly as possible so that the person who is overdosing can breathe again is so important,” said Crowder. “naloxone saves lives.”
In a recent interview, platoon chief Andy Sanvido with the Guelph Fire Department said naloxone is just one more tool firefighters can use to help people.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about the patient, the community and doing the right thing. We just want to be able to help the patient,” said Sanvido.