Conquering Addiction


How the Tucson Fire Department prepares for overdose calls

Posted at 7:11 AM, Oct 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-11 14:17:27-04

It's a Wednesday morning at the Tucson Fire Department headquarters downtown. An overdose call comes in and soon crews are out the door.

"The little bit of information we have determines the level of protection that we put on, and then some of the equipment" said Captain Nate Weber.

On the way to the scene the crew only knows what the dispatcher tells them.

"In this situation she was coming down from heroin and meth and some other medications," Weber said. "She wanted to get some help. Obviously the first call is to 911."

Tucson Fire officials say in the last year it has taken 2,200 overdose calls. Captain Brian Thompson says that number is actually low because some overdoses may actually come in as other health issues.

The department also used about 1,600 doses of Narcan, a lifesaving opioid reversal drug. We've heard more about fentanyl in recent years, which can be deadly to the touch, but Thompson says firefighters have always been prepared to protect themselves.

"We've always practiced good BSI precautions. That's 'body substance isolation.' That's us putting our gloves on, that's us putting your safety glasses on and our N95 respirators," Thompson said.

Those safety precautions are something they learn in the academy and the station has all the gear the firefighters need.

One thing Thompson has noticed recently is an increase in drugs that are laced with different things which can make them even more dangerous.

The woman who called 911 ended up being referred to a local clinic for help. TFD has a program called Tucson Collaborative Community Care, or TC3.

The goal is to reduce the 911 call load and help direct everyone in our community to the resources they need.