Arnold AFB first responders bring speed, skill to emergencies

  • Published
  • By Jill Pickett
The Arnold Air Force Base Fire and Emergency Services (FES) team is ready to respond, whether that be to an emergency medical call, a vehicle wreck, a structure fire or a special rescue.

On the firefighting side, the team operates a “full-spectrum” fire department.

“We do all types of rescue, with special emphasis on high-angle rescue, confined space rescue and automotive rescue with emergency medical service,” said Fire Chief Daryle Lopes, “because they’re three of the significant and most prevalent hazards that we have here at Arnold.”

In addition, the department operates a 911 emergency communications center, conducts fire prevention inspections and provides public education.

The department is also hazardous materials capable.

Most of the firefighters are certified in aircraft rescue and firefighting, with plans to have them all certified, according to Lopes.

Certification is part of maintaining a state of readiness.

“We train to the level of emergencies that we think we’re going to face,” he said.

On the emergency medical side, the team exceeds the expectations for the average Air Force base.
“Most Air Force bases don’t have paramedics on base,” he said.

All the firefighters at Arnold have emergency medical training. They are certified at different levels up to and including paramedic.

Arnold FES staffs one ambulance 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because of the number of firefighters certified as advanced emergency medical technicians and as paramedics, a second ambulance can often be cross-staffed if necessary, Lopes said.

If and when they are needed, they arrive quickly.
“One of the things that everybody needs to know about our capability, is that when they dial 911, they’re going to get very swift service from very high-quality, highly-experienced paramedics coming to help them,” Lopes said. “And they’ll get it faster here on this installation than they’ll ever get anywhere else.”

The department’s standard travel time from door to door is five minutes or less. Lopes said they always meet that.

The standard for total time, starting with the telephone call to dispatch is seven minutes.
On an annual basis the department meets that standard more often than 98 percent of the time, according to Lopes.

The department’s main area of responsibility is Arnold AFB. But mutual aid agreements with surrounding fire departments and emergency medical services take them beyond the boundaries of the base and allows them to assist and receive assistance when needed.
“The men and women here that are part of our department are top notch,” Lopes said.

“I’m always proud of how hard they work; how well they prepare for what they have to do; and then on top of that how extremely well they execute when the chips are down.

“We don’t run on as many calls as do Murfreesboro or Nashville fire departments, but we do an excellent job on all the runs that we go to. We’ve saved a good number of lives.

“(I’m) always proud of the work that they do.”
Maintaining the necessary level of readiness requires continual training.

The Air Force fire protection annual training plan entails hundreds of hours of training each year.
The paramedics follow the training and certification requirements of the state of Tennessee.

When it comes to meeting those requirements, Arnold FES has an advantage. They have Shane Clark on staff, an instructor/coordinator.

Clark said across the state there are only about 35 paramedic instructor/coordinators. Lopes said it is a “unique capability” as far as Air Force bases.

“Having an instructor/coordinator is very high value for us, because he has the ability to teach the vast majority of courses we require,” said Lopes. “He can teach us and certify us. It gives us great training quality and flexibility at low cost.”

In addition to fire, rescue and emergency medical training, the department works with the test organizations and pre-plans for known hazards such as confined spaces and hazardous materials.

“Our motto is ‘Always ready,’” Lopes said.