Beach EMS Service Honored


The GOLD Standard

“Minutes and even seconds matter during heart attack and stroke incidences, as ‘Time is Tissue,’” said Ron Martin, the Executive Assistant Fire Chief of Life Safety & Support Services for the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department on receiving the American Heart Association’s (AHA) “Mission Lifeline GOLD Plus Award” for Emergency Medical Services earlier this month.

“The AHA recognizes Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agencies, like we are here at the FMB Fire Department, for their efforts to improve care and rapid recognition of STEMI patients and their quick transportation to qualified medical centers equipped to provide immediate quality care,” continued Chief Martin. “In our business, when we say, ‘Time is Tissue,’ we mean heart tissue with heart attacks or brain tissue with strokes. Not only did the FMB Fire Department receive the AHA GOLD Award that is its highest recognition for heart care parameters, we also earned its ‘Plus’ designation that applies to identifying stroke care and transportation for those patients. By earning both GOLD and Plus annual honors, the FMB Fire Department is one of just 42 Florida agencies to receive each of these prestigious honors in 2019!”

STEMI is the abbreviation for “ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction” that affects over 250,000 Americans annually. “What this means to a layman is this is the worst possible type of heart attack that can led to a potentially fatal outcome,” explained Chief Martin. “Blockages in the heart’s coronary arteries cause a lack of oxygen to the heart muscle, so it is critical to restore that blood flow as quickly as possible, either by mechanically opening the blocked vessel or by providing clot-busting medication.”

Silver To Gold

“This is the second consecutive year that the FMB Fire Department earned the AHA’s ‘Mission Lifeline’ Award,” added Executive Assistant Fire Chief of Operations Scott Wirth. “Last year, we received it at the Silver level, as that was our first recognition. Since the FMB Fire Department continually elevated its performance measures over the prior 12 months, the AHA this year promoted us to GOLD. Being recognized with the ‘Plus’ distinction for stroke care is icing on the cake! To receive both the GOLD and ‘Plus’ designation is an extremely rare occurrence.”

“These honors are indicative of the type of care that our residents expect from us,” Chief Martin related, “because it is they who not only invest in this type of quality through their tax dollars but also in the faith that they place in our personnel by providing topnotch state-of-the-art education and training. We can only be a good as our citizens allow us to be, and that is why we have the best possible Emergency Response Technicians who continue to receive the most up-to-date training on an annual basis, meaning that our citizens deserve these awards as much as the FMB Fire Department personnel.”

Both gentlemen are quick to credit their colleague, Division Chief of Emergency Medical Services Randy Kraus, for the FMB Fire Department’s outstanding response and performance outcomes. “The key to this success is Chief Kraus, who is, without a doubt, our leader in all of our medical programs,” explained Chief Wirth. “In fact, the only reason Chief Martin and I are speaking on this is because Chief Kraus is attending the EMS Conference in Orlando. Randy is not only essential to the FMB Fire Department community but to our countywide citizens, as he constantly provides updates on protocol to all area agencies, as he just lives for this – he does! With Randy in charge, we know that all our personnel offer the most current level of care that we can possibly provide, with training in the latest procedures.”

“To give you an idea of the level of medical services training our EMS technicians receive,” added Chief Martin, “Randy every year attends the Conference of Eagles geared to only the best directors who are in on the ground floor of the latest medical breakthroughs in the EMS field. That information is invaluable to us and our citizens.”

“Because our Fire Department personnel receive this training over the course of a two-year period, we have, I feel, the best equipped EMS technicians in Lee County,” stated Chief Wirth. “It is a six-part training process, broken down over four-month timeframes to cover everything. By repeating this program every two years, our personnel receive the latest in lifesaving techniques under the tutelage of Chief Kraus. The Beach Fire Department now has five team leaders that work hand-in-hand with Chief Kraus, and who now actually assist him with the training of other members in our department, though the bulk of that still falls on Randy’s shoulders. All 48 members of our department are Emergency Medical Technician responders, with 40 being paramedics, with the ultimate goal of having every one of them reaching that level.”

“Another important partner in this collaborative award is the Lee Health System,” Chief Martin offered. “It does not matter how fast we transport a patient to the hospital if they do not receive superior care there and Lee Health is great! The HealthPark Medical Center is the region’s primary location for heart attacks, while most stroke victims go to Gulf Coast Hospital.”

“The Rest is History!”

Chief Wirth pointed out that the FMB Fire Department is one of only three Lee County agencies to have its own critical care emergency transport services: “It is just us, Lee County and Lehigh Acres, and in fact, we were the very first one, even before Lee County!”

“You have to roll back the hands of time,” added Chief Martin with a hearty laugh! “The FMB Fire Department formed in 1949 and Lee County was so much smaller then, that the beach was far away from Fort Myers, so in the early 1950s the Beach Rescue Association formed to purchase and renovate an old bread truck to transport patients, as back in those days, funeral homes used their hearses as ambulances until they pulled out of that service in 1972. Once the FMB Fire Department had their own transport service, we could take patients off-island to rendezvous with the hearses to significantly reduce transport time to the hospital, as it was even more true back then that ‘Time is Tissue,’ and the rest is history!”

Today, the FMB Fire Department continues its cutting-edge methods. “We offer free CPR training for our community members,” explained Chief Martin. “Many of our citizens have already taken advantage of this, and we strongly encourage more to do so. This is a crucial element to the success of the STEMI treatments, as we train those folks for exactly what to look for, so that when they do call 911, they can provide the best possible information for the most rapid care, not only during the transport but at the medical facility, becoming an essential element in the AHA’s chain of survival.”

If you would like to take part in this training, contact the FMB Fire Department at 239-590-4210 and ask for the Life Safety Division or email “Another innovative measure the FMB Fire Department will debut within the next month or so to assist our community are free blood pressure checkups at our fire stations,” said Chief Martin, “so look for those details soon.”

Shaping Our Community Through Excellence!

When analyzing why the FMB Fire Department is so successful in receiving numerous awards like those from the AHA, “that is easy,” enthused Chief Wirth: “It is our people! They take their roles seriously in their care for our community! Ron is right in that our community demands this level of excellence in the service that they want and we provide, and we work very hard each and every day to deliver that level of service.”

“Our Fire Department slogan says it all,” added Chief Martin: “‘Shaping Our Community Through Excellence!’ The FMB Fire Department, in all of the actions that we undertake, strives to change the lives of our citizens for the better, whether it is providing world-class STEMI medical services, washing our fire trucks or helping an elderly person change a flat tire. By constantly performing at this consistent level of excellent service, the FMB Fire Department upgrades the lives of our residents.”

Chief Wirth believes that the level of excellence achieved by the FMB Fire Department “is because of how the community embraces us, and I am equally proud and appreciative of that, as we are integral to the mosaic of the beach’s way of life! When you feel that passion from your citizens, like we experience every day, you want to be the best, knowing that quality service comes first and foremost.”

“The FMB Fire Department is extremely proud of our community and vice-versa,” agreed Chief Martin. “When you experience those emotions, you never want to grow complacent and want to constantly evolve through greater performance measures and standards, to constantly find ways to do things better for our citizens.”


By Gary Mooney