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DCES unveils new ballistic vests, pet oxygen masks
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Dawson County Fire Chief Danny Thompson, Dawson County Humane Society board member Terri Tragesser, Dawson County Humane Society President Tim Smock and Shelter Director Jason Hutcherson pose with animal oxygen masks that were donated to Dawson County Emergency Services by the Dawson County Humane Society. - photo by Jessica Taylor

During a press conference at Fire Station 2 Monday morning, Dawson County Fire Chief Danny Thompson announced the addition of two new tools that will help first responders serve the community.

The Dawson County Humane Society donated six sets of oxygen masks to be used for pets involved in fires. Each set includes three sizes of masks for small, medium and large dogs and cats.

Thompson said the masks have already been used in recent fires.

“We were gracious enough that the humane society donated a total of six sets so each engine company in the county will have one of these,” Thompson said.

Each of the five firetrucks in the county are equipped with the oxygen kits, with an additional mask as an extra set aside for the firetruck that will be housed at Station 8 which is currently under construction.

“Dogs, just like human beings, typically what kills individuals and animals in a structure fire is the smoke. It’s those products of combustion, commonly CO (carbon monoxide),” Thompson said. “It forms with the oxygen in the blood stream, causes carboxyhemoglobin and again, that’s that silent killer for both animals and humans.”

“We were very excited about the opportunity to be able to do this and get them on the trucks asap,” Humane Society board member Terri Tragesser said. “They’ve already been used which is very, very comforting to know that all the trucks are ready and we appreciate the fire department because our guys on the trucks have animals at home too… it’s hard when you go to a fire and you’ve got kids and animals involved.”

The kits, which are about $87 apiece, were purchased with funds raised by sales at the Dawson County Humane Society Resale Shop and Boutique. The Dawson County Humane Society board voted at their September meeting to fund the kits for the county’s fire engines.

“It is projects like the pet masks that motivate our donors, volunteers and customers,” Tragesser said. “Making a difference every day means every day can be a better one for our county’s animals.”

“Now, regardless of the station that responds to the fire, pet oxygen masks will be at the site and available if needed,” Humane Society President Tim Smock said. “Our EMS staff has already been trained in the use of the masks so implementation will be immediate.”

Thompson said he hopes the masks won’t have to be used, but is thankful to have them on hand should the need arise.

“If you look at your cats or dogs at home, I know my wife, she’s going to ask me two questions: are the kids out and are the dogs out. That’s the two questions if we ever have a house fire at my house,” Thompson said. “They become part of your family and to lose animal is just very tragic in and of itself so hopefully we’ll never have to have that happen, but again, we’re prepared.”

As of last week, Thompson said DCES has received 10 sets of ballistic armor and Kevlar helmets that will enable first responders to provide aid in the case of an active shooter situation.

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Ten ballistic vests and Kevlar helmets were purchased for about $13,000 through a loss prevention refund in partnership with Dawson County’s relationship with insurance provider ACCG. - photo by Jessica Taylor

“In years past, we were not equipped to work inside of the hot zone. When deputies or other law enforcement officers arrived at an active shooter scene, we basically had to wait until they transported those victims out to us,” Thompson said. “Now this enables us to work as a rescue task force to be able to insert once the armed officers arrived at that scene and to be able to go in and begin immediate care of any wounded individuals in there.

“It is my hope that we never, ever in the history of Dawson County have an active shooter, but we have to be prepared for that event.”

The vests and helmets were paid for through a partnership with the county’s insurance provider, ACCG. Dawson County received $48,000 from ACCG’s 2014 loss prevention refund. A portion was used to pay for the new vests and helmets.

Two sets are staffed on each of the med units in the county, with four additional vests on the battalion vehicle that responds to all major incidents, Thompson said.

The goal is savable patients by getting tourniquets in place to prevent blood loss, the number one cause of death in active shooter situations, according to Thompson. 

“We’re always striving to push the envelope, to push the bar, to provide for our citizens,” Thompson said.