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"Telemedic' can save your life _ wherever you are

For as long as fire departments have been around, firefighters have been looking for ways for everyone else to help themselves.

We used to advocate the "Vial of Life" program, in which medical information _ medications, allergies, physician's name, and other pertinent medical history _ was stored inside a person's refrigerator, with a colored dot fastened to the top. An identical dot was fastened to the outside of the refrigerator door, theoretically to alert the rescue workers of the information inside.

The problem was that people frequently would have their medical emergencies somewhere other than their homes.

But now, we in St. Petersburg have moved away from that in favor of something better. We call it the "Telemedic" program.

As its name implies, it allows the user to "tell a medic" exactly what the medical history consists of long before an emergency occurs. Like the Vial of Life program, Telemedic maintains a list of medications, pertinent medical history and other information, and then goes a few steps further.

First, Telemedic allows you to keep all of your medical information stored in our dispatch computers. This is done confidentially, via a form that you fill out and send to us at Fire Department headquarters.

We enter your history and whatever other information you give us in our computers. This other information could include non-medical items such as, "I am in the garage apartment in the rear of this address," or, "We have a large dog in the yard."

That might not seem too important now, but believe me, that information would be greatly appreciated by responding paramedics.

When someone in the Telemedic file calls 911, the stored medical or other information is sent directly, via computer printout, to the fire station that houses the responding emergency vehicle. Should that vehicle be out of the station, the paramedics will be advised by radio.

Where Vial of Life stayed in your refrigerator, Telemedic goes where you go by simply taking along your address or phone number when leaving the house.

Since Telemedic is tied into our enhanced 911 system, we can reference your phone number or your address, via radio, and receive your Telemedic information no matter where you might be in the city.

Another advantage is that you can keep us advised of changes to your file as they occur. As a matter of fact, if you don't call us, we will call you every year to see if any updating is required, such as new medicines, new address, or a larger dog in the yard.

You also can keep a separate file, when necessary, for up to 99 different people living in your home.

And best of all, the Telemedic program is provided at absolutely no cost. Now as a taxpayer, isn't that refreshing to hear for a change?

So, if you think that you might benefit from the Telemedic program, or if you have any questions, please give us a call in the St. Petersburg Fire Department's Emergency Medical Services Division at 893-7527.

Call soon to set up your own Telemedic file. It beats staying at home with your refrigerator.

David Fraser is a St. Petersburg firefighter/paramedic.