First responders acting as teachers in heat wave


REDDING, Calif. - Rising temperatures are keeping emergency responders busy. Much of their job is about teaching people how to handle the heat.

Heat-related injuries and illnesses are springing up in the summer.

"We see it typically in the start-up of the hot season for this area," said AMR Shasta County operations manager Mark Belden.

When the hot weather strikes ambulance workers are becoming more like educators. They respond when they are needed throughout a vast coverage area.

Teaming up with units from Mercy Medical Center and Shasta Regional Medical Center, the Shasta County branch of American Medical Response sets up posts as far north as Pollard Flat near Lakehead, and heads as far south as Northern Tehama County. The coverage spreads east to the Lassen Park entrance and west to the Buckhorn Summit on highway 299.

"We like to educate the public on what is best for them as far as their healthcare."

-Mark Belden, AMR Shasta County operations manager

According to Belden, people in the Northstate are adjusting as the heat rolls through.

"As the season progresses, as the temperatures really start to spike, we see people become more acclimated," he said.

Conversely, those who travel through the area are the individuals sometimes running into trouble.

"If they're coming over from the coast they don't have air conditioning - and they get a gradual build up of heat. Those are the people that we typically see as they hit the Redding area that are having a problem," Belden said.

When it is a lessened case that does not require transportation to the hospital Belden's employees are acting as instructors to the patients in which they come in contact. He said education can be the key.

"We like to educate the public on what is best for them as far as their healthcare," Belden said.

It is something he preaches to his team.

"They keep themselves hydrated, especially this time of year. Just the mental alertness - they come in, they're ready to go for their 12-hour shift," Belden said. "That's the kind of job that you sign up for. Some people call it the ‘zero to hero' - where you're going literally from doing something like this. The tones go off and out you go."

Belden said he is weary of the more susceptible population. That is, those who are likely to suffer heat-related problems including the elderly or children.