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Springfield among communities to get carbon monoxide screeners

Date: 12/20/2010

Dec. 20, 2010

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

GREATER SPRINGFIELD -- The fire departments in several communities throughout the Pioneer Valley will soon have the ability to screen persons possibly exposed to carbon monoxide on site before sending them to the hospital.

With Western Massachusetts Homeland Security Council funds, the Springfield Fire Department was able to obtain 30 RAD 57 Pulse Oximeters , which will be distributed to 17 departments in Western Massachusetts, including Springfield, Agawam, Chicopee, Holyoke, Longmeadow, Ludlow, South Hadley, Springfield, West Springfield, Westfield and Wilbraham.

"This being the start of heating season, one of the things we are very worried about is carbon monoxide poisoning. [The RAD 57] gives us the ability to see if someone needs to be treated for carbon monoxide poisoning on the scene," Springfield Fire Department Emergency Preparedness Director Robert Hassett said.

The RAD 57, which was approved for use by the FDA in 2006, is a small, handheld device no bigger than a large television remote with a sensor that clips to the subject's finger, much like a standard sensor used to measure heart rate and oxygen levels in hospitals and doctors' offices.

Hassett did not know off-hand the cost of the devices.

The 30 devices are the most up-to-date, state-of-the-art models, which, according to Hassett, salespeople at Masimo -- the manufacturer of the device -- do not even have.

"We're the first ones in the country to have the upgraded models," Hassett said.

Hassett said the oximeters can be very useful in cases involving large buildings, such as apartment complexes, factories or schools.

"Many of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are the same as the flu, so it can be hard to tell if it's the flu or a carbon monoxide issue," Hassett said, adding that many times if one person displays symptoms, multiple people may exhibit sympathy symptoms. The RAD 57 would help weed out those actually suffering from exposure, as opposed to those who may be imagining their symptoms.

The devices are not only valuable in screening victims of fires and carbon monoxide leaks. The departments will also use the devices to screen firefighters after responding to dangerous calls.

Springfield already had one such device at its disposal before the purchase of the additional 30 and it did come in handy, according to Hassett.

"There was an incident in Springfield where students and teachers were exhibiting symptoms, such at throwing up and other flu symptoms," Hassett said. "They didn't know whether or not it was due to carbon monoxide poisoning."

In that instance, the fire department was called and screened the students, finding no exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning with the oximeter and saved many trips to the hospital.

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