Copperas Cove firefighters and emergency medical responders work 24/7, 365 days a year.
“We are in a constant state of readiness for the 24-hour shift we are here,” said Lt. Robert Hicks, with the C-shift crew.
At the heart of the department’s resources is its personnel, who are certified firefighters, emergency medical technicians or paramedics. But there are many devices they use on the job.
One tool residents may not know about is the thermal imaging camera, Hicks said.
“What happens with the thermal imaging camera is, it gives you the ability to see where we can’t see,” said Deputy Chief Gary Young.
The device “sees” through heavy smoke by showing the heat differentials through its monitor, Young said. It can be used standing up; the model the fire department uses also is intended for crawling or crouching.
The device is useful for searching for people inside smoke-filled rooms or navigating past furniture and hallways, Hicks said.
Another use for it is to scour for hot spots that might be underneath rubble or debris, he said. Firefighters can then remove the top layer of debris and extinguish the hot spot instead of constantly soaking the area with water.
Another tool is a gas detector, Hicks said. It detects most combustible gases and tells responders how much of that gas is in the area.
“Going into a residence, it lets us know if there is actually a problem inside,” he said, noting that home detectors may sometimes just need to have batteries replaced.
Cove firefighters also battle blazes with a combination of water and a compressed air foam system. The latter allows for less water to be used and to extinguish a fire faster.
“The principle is that the foam smothers the fire,” firefighter Carlos Mariduena said.
The foam separates out the water by creating a bubble and creating a larger surface area for the water and foam to absorb the blaze, firefighter Cody Scaff said.
“It supposedly decreases the flames up to 700 times faster,” he said.
The tool is not yet on fire trucks and brush trucks, but Google Earth and other Internet databases and websites are extremely useful for emergency management purposes, Young said.
“Using Google Earth is very beneficial to us,” Young said. “We can actually track fires as they change by using people in the field.”
The mapping program allows notifying firefighters of terrain changes, giving coordinates for helicopters to pick up water and alerting other firefighter vehicles to the best entrances at a blaze, Young said.
Other life-saving tools on fire trucks include the Jaws of Life, Young said.
Ambulances carry different equipment for EMTs and paramedics.
Among the most valuable of these tools is the automated external defibrillator, Young said. While these devices are also on fire trucks, more advanced units are assigned to every ambulance.
The fire truck defibrillators allow for shocking a person, but ambulance units allow for checking oxygen blood levels, the heart’s rhythm and other body functions.
Other essential utilities in ambulances are the aid bag, the airway bag and the continuous positive airway pressure bag, Hicks said.
The first two bags contain a condensed version of tools and medications on the ambulance, he said. They let emergency medical responders stabilize patients prior to transporting them to the ambulance.
The continuous positive airway pressure unit helps patients with breathing from conditions that cause fluids to build up in the lungs, Hicks said.
“It helps force air into their lungs and forces some of the fluid out, and hopefully, helps them breathe a lot better,” Hicks said.
Members of the department are constantly training and several are either EMTs or paramedics.