El Coronel No Tiene Quien Le Escuche

Col. Ramon Martinez Soriano - Bomberos de Manzanillo

El Coronel No Tiene Quien Le Escuche

Written by Colonel Guillermo José Ramón Soriano Martinez
of the Manzanillo Fire Department

On Thursday, July 13, we once again experienced a scene on Juan de Bolaño Beach (Monte Cristi), all too common on the beaches of our country: a 2-year-old baby, unaware of his mother’s sight for a fraction of seconds, was dragged by tide. In a split second, the games on the beach turned into a nightmare as the unconscious boy was pulled from the water.

According to the World Health Organization, drowning is one of the 10 leading causes of death in people under 25 years of age, and 2,665 deaths from drowning were recorded in our country between November 2007 and January 2014, according to the National Statistics Office ( ONE). Many of these deaths could have been prevented with proper surveillance and proper pre-hospital care once the victim was removed from the water. However, on that July 13, as is common on many of our beaches, there were no lifeguards or other trained first aid responders nearby who could help, except for a 5-year-old boy.

When the child heard the mother’s screams and saw the baby’s body being pulled from the sea, he acted. He ran up to someone and asked him to call the Manzanillo Fire Department, a communications center from which a group of dispatchers responds to emergency calls received by phone, and collects the information on an online platform that sends a text message to all trained first aid responders in the area. In this case, three of them were only a few hundred meters away from the beach. After reading the message, Nathanael, Miguel and Osvaldo, They made their way to the scene where they used their first aid training to resuscitate the boy and transport him within minutes to the hospital in one of the specialized emergency transport engines known as ‘eRanger’. All it took to save this baby was a child with the knowledge of who to ask for help and a group of respectable young people ready to act as soon as an emergency alert hit their cell phones.

In recent years we have been watching with delight how Santo Domingo has implemented one of the most advanced medical emergency systems in Latin America and the Caribbean. In spite of that, as the Chief of a Fire Department with more than 35 years of service to my community, I know that the difficulties that the government will have when expanding this service to all the rural communities of our country will be multiple. And like this baby, many of us can’t wait that long for help.

For this reason we have taken the initiative to work to develop an alternative system to ensure access to rapid 24-hour emergency response service in our community. With the help of a pilot program initially funded by Google, USAID, and Cardinal Health, we have been working since October 2014 with Trek Medics International, a group of paramedics in New York City, to implement this system geared toward the community using basic cell phone technology. Over the past year, our association has created a model specifically designed for rural communities with limited resources to safely respond to emergency incidents by providing pre-hospital care and transportation to the nearest hospital. To date we have responded to nearly 150 emergency incidents within an average of 6 minutes after receiving the alert call. In fact, a study conducted by Columbia University in August 2015 showed that, on average, a patient with an acute medical condition in the province of Montecristi takes 3.5 hours to reach the hospital. We are averaging about 33 minutes in the process of picking up the patient and taking him to the hospital, and day after day, more calls are being received and from more distant communities. Based on this we can say that a reliable emergency service is becoming a reality for isolated communities like ours. a study conducted by Columbia University in August 2015 showed that, on average, a patient with an acute medical condition in the province of Montecristi takes 3.5 hours to reach the hospital. We are averaging about 33 minutes in the process of picking up the patient and taking him to the hospital, and day after day, more calls are being received and from more distant communities. Based on this, we can say that a reliable emergency service is becoming a reality for isolated communities like ours. a study conducted by Columbia University in August 2015 showed that, on average, a patient with an acute medical condition in the province of Montecristi takes 3.5 hours to reach the hospital. We are averaging about 33 minutes in the process of picking up the patient and taking him to the hospital, and day after day, more calls are being received and from more distant communities. Based on this, we can say that a reliable emergency service is becoming a reality for isolated communities like ours. more calls are being received and from more distant communities. Based on this, we can say that a reliable emergency service is becoming a reality for isolated communities like ours. more calls are being received and from more distant communities. Based on this, we can say that a reliable emergency service is becoming a reality for isolated communities like ours.

Meanwhile we are very grateful and honored for the help of our international partner, and now the real work begins. Our system has been proving day by day that communities with the fewest resources can also have access to quality emergency care, and that no child should ever again die on our beaches because no one knew what to do. We call on our national partners, public and private, anyone with an interest in keeping our beaches and highways safe, to take the initiative and join us in providing basic public services that have been lacking for so long.

Colonel José Ramón Guillermo Soriano Martínez
Fire Department of Manzanillo-Pepillo Salcedo

Beacon emergency dispatch is a cloud-based, do-it-yourself platform for emergency services that alerts, coordinates and tracks prehospital personnel using any mobile phone, with or without internet.

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