Dallas Fire Paramedics Deal With Hundreds of Overdose Calls

Dallas firefighters are trained to fight flames and save lives but most of the time it's not running into burning buildings that's saving people.

Right now, they're responding to more overdose calls than fires.

In fact, nearly 80 percent of their calls are medical, which means a significant part of emergency responders' days are devoted to these overdose calls.

The numbers are staggering, but it's such a rampant problem, emergency professionals are not even surprised by them.

It's a call for help firefighters and paramedics across Dallas are responding to multiple times a day. Dr. Marshall Isaacs says the response often involves overdose medical emergencies where every second counts.

"This is a drug that, if taken in too large an amount, can stop you from breathing, and within four to six minutes you'll die," he said, about the very powerful synthetic opioid called fentanyl.

For paramedics, their first line of defense for these types of calls has become a little vile of Narcan.

"It can within a matter of seconds to minutes reverse the effects," Isaacs said.

Narcan is used to save patients overdosing on a number of different drugs, and so far this year, emergency responders have had to administer it more than 835 times. That's roughly three overdose responses per day.

"We certainly wish that number could drop to zero, but three a day really does not surprise me," said Isaacs.

Short of calling it an epidemic, he says the significant overdose problem has played a major role in emergency response.

"This is a societal problem. It is not Dallas Fire-Rescue's problem to solve, but whenever there's a call for help they respond. And in this case we have the antidote, we have the treatment and we can help save lives," Isaacs said.

Dallas Police also respond to these overdose calls. A deputy police chief told NBC 5 Dallas Fire has such great response times and a handle on the problem to this point, that DPD officers are not equipped with Narcan, nor trained to administer it.

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