Health First and Brevard County First Responder Agencies Drill for ‘Golden Hour’

'Golden Hour' is first 60-minutes first responders have to stabilize a traumatic accident victim

In this simulation at the Cape Canaveral Fire Department training facility near Port Canaveral, firefighters practice extricating, stabilizing and moving an unconscious passenger trapped in a rollover accident. (Health First image)

For first responders, extricating, treating and moving the wounded is one of the most sensitive and sophisticated of lifesaving acts. Health First doctors and nurses were honored to be asked to a training exercise Wednesday hosted by Cape Canaveral Fire Department.

The “Golden Hour.”

It is an interval often used to refer to the optimal 60-minute period of time that first responders have to remove and stabilize a traumatic accident victim at the scene, safely transport them to a receiving hospital and begin lifesaving surgery.

This week, Health First trauma and emergency department medical professionals partnered with multiple Brevard County fire departments and Emergency Medical Service teams – including Brevard County Fire Rescue, the Cocoa Beach Fire Department and Cape Canaveral Fire Department – to practice for a worst-case scenario.

The drill, conducted at the Cape Canaveral Fire Department training facility near Port Canaveral, was designed to simulate a traumatic emergency event, including overturned vehicles, multiple medical attention scenarios, and accident trauma “victims.”

“Life is minutes – especially the first hour,” said Scott Zenoni, M.D., trauma surgeon at Holmes Regional Medical Center. “The ability to appropriately triage and determine what patients need and where they need to go (type of hospital facility) is one of the most important factors in that care.”

According to Larissa Dudley, M.D., emergency medicine physician and assistant medical director for First Flight, teamwork between multiple teams and agencies is imperative during a traumatic event.

“Collaboration between multiple points – first responders, the transporting agency, the air agency, and the final hospital that a patient arrives at – is critical. It’s essential that all entities know what the others’ responsibilities are so that they can work together, faster,” said Dudley.

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Scott Zenoni, M.D., a trauma surgeon at Holmes Regional Medical Center, and Larissa Dudley, M.D., emergency medicine physician and First Flight assistant medical director, speak with first responders and Health First medical personnel participating in a mock trauma response exercise in Cape Canaveral. (Health First image)
First responders arrive at the “scene” of a mock trauma exercise involving Health First medical teams and members of Brevard County Fire Rescue, the Cocoa Beach Fire Department and Cape Canaveral Fire Department. (Health First image)

According to both Dudley and Zenoni, if there is but one takeaway that comes from drills like this it’s the importance of communication.

“For first responders to relay the mechanism of the injury – the what happened, was it a side impact, front or rear end or roll over, for example – helps us at the receiving hospital start to better understand and think ahead in terms of what we can expect when the patient comes through the door for surgery,” said Zenoni.

“We completely rely on first responders to be our eyes and ears before the patient gets to the hospital,” said Dudley. “Back at the hospital, physicians, nurses and ancillary staff don’t ordinarily see the many different challenges the first responder is dealing with at the accident scene. This all underscores the importance of communication in real time, from the scene to the hospital.”

In Brevard County, Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center operates the region’s only Level II Trauma Center. The Trauma Center serves all of Brevard County and portions of Indian River and Osceola counties and is designed to treat the most life-threatening injuries.

More than 2,500 patients are treated here each year. Many are transported by Health First’s First Flight, a critical care air ambulance that has been servicing the community for more than 30 years.

Health First trauma and emergency department members collaborate with Brevard County Fire Rescue, the Cocoa Beach Fire Department and Cape Canaveral Fire Department during a mock trauma response training and educational exercise. (Health First image)
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