By the end of next month, Maple Ridge firefighters will be rolling through town with a new tool to help save lives.
The fire department’s training personnel have now received instruction from B.C. Emergency Health Services on how to the administer Narcan, or naloxone, so they can pass on their training to the rest of 56 full-time and 60 paid-on-call firefighters.
Narcan kits allow first responders, or even family and friends, to inject someone who’s suffering a fentanyl or other opioid overdose.
“It’s a scourge right now,” said Maple Ridge fire chief Dane Spence.
Last year, Maple Ridge had 23 drug fatalities last year, twice as many as the larger communities of Langley or Coquitlam, which had 11 each.
Overdoses from fentanyl are decimating drug users in B.C. and across Canada. The artificial opioid is 50 times more powerful than heroine.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, opioids are depressant drugs, which means that they slow down the part of the brain that controls breathing, even leading to point where breathing stops.
Opioids can also produce euphoria, making them prone to abuse.
Naloxone can counteract those effects.
The kits will become part of the medical equipment kit that firefighters carry.
“It’s one more tool in the tool box,” said Spence. “It does not replace the basics of first aid.”
With fire trucks now equipped, there’s more of a chance that lives could be saved if firefighters are first on the scene of a drug overdose.
They will still have to get authorization by an emergency physician on call that advise first responders.
Pitt Meadows fire chief Don Jolley said most of the 36 paid-on call firefighters in his department will have received the training within a week. Each training session takes about two hours.
By that time, the city’s eight trucks will be responding to emergencies with those kits, for which the city has to pay a small fee.
Jolley said it’s usually a 50-50 split between the fire department and paramedics on who arrives first at an emergency scene.
Last year, Alouette Addiction Services in Maple Ridge gave out Narcan kits to drug users.
To get the kits, people had to take an hour of training.
Alouette Addiction said many drugs, even marijuana, are being mixed with fentanyl, and that minute amounts of it, even absorbed through the skin, can be fatal.