New onboard medicine means better survival odds

Local Fire Rescue supervisors, chiefs and hazardous material units have begun carrying a medicine that can save lives.

New research shows that cyanide in the smoke created by burning household items is killing people just as much as Carbon Monoxide.

MDFR’s now widely carried Cyanide antidote kit, will help us combat some of these inhaled deadly gasses. The commercially available product has been around for a long time in ER units, but now MDFR will carry it on the front lines.

Why do we need to carry the new medicine on Fire Rescue units?

I chatted with our medical director Dr. Marc Grossman and he says that what pushed us to take action was the research. For years, it was believed that carbon monoxide was killing smoke inhalation victims. Oxygen and advanced airway procedures were the best we could do for them. Now we know that Cyanide is produced when common household items burn and it is blocking oxygen from attaching to blood cells. Grossman said that since time is critical, and we are the first health care advocates on a scene, MDFR can provide a better service by having the antidote on operations Fire Rescue units ready to be administered in immediately.

Smoke alarms will save your family’s life. If you missed your opportunity to test and change smoke alarm batteries with the time change to Daylight Saving Time on March 8, there’s no better time than right now!

How often is this happening?

Here in Miami-Dade County we get our fair share of unfortunate fire deaths. Prevention is key and it works. But at times our firefighters must gear up and drag out unconscious victims. Although these sad fires don’t always make big news, we have them almost every month.

Just last month, we had two separate fire deaths on the same day. In January, we pulled out an elderly Opa Locka woman, while Miami Beach Firefighters pulled out a 100-year-old woman in December.

Last year an entire family near Miami Lakes died in their sleep.

The year before that two small children were left alone in a Cutler Bay home that burned. Firefighters pulled them out, performed CPR and transported them to the ER where the Cyanide antidote was carried by the ER staff and given.

They both lived.

If you go back 10 years or so, the Pinecrest Rescue 49 crew (Red Road) geared up and pulled a man from his burning home. And not too long before that my crew and I in the middle of night pulled a man from his burning home off Old Cutler Road in Palmetto Bay. You may not hear of it, but these things are happening. Now we are better prepared to combat them.

We try to stay on top of advances in the industry and help people avoid these tragedies. But history tells us these events are likely to happen again. Help us avoid it by checking your smoke alarms.

Prevention and stayin’ safe is what we are looking for.

Each year at our award ceremony we get to see the happy stories. And the families helped by our Firefighters and special equipment. Now many MDFR units are carrying a medicine that can reverse some of the deadly affects of smoke inhalation.

Capt. Jack Swerdloff is a South Dade EMS Supervisor with the Miami Dade Firefighters. He is a frequent contributor to this newspaper and be contacted at

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