John M. Oakey & Son and Salem Fire & EMS initiate mailer program

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John M. Oakey & Son President Cathie Thomas and Salem Fire & EMS Chief John Prillaman talk about the benefits of the program. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.
John M. Oakey & Son President Cathie Thomas and Salem Fire & EMS Chief John Prillaman talk about the benefits of the program. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.
John M. Oakey & Son Funeral Home and the Salem Fire & EMS Department have teamed on a project that is intended to save time, and lives, in case of emergencies.

Over the next two weeks, a packet will be sent to over 4,500 Salem residents, or anyone in the area who is 55 or older, that will include a dry erase board. The board, which is intended to be hung in the kitchen of every home, will include allotted space on the back to fill in important medical records, such as allergies, medical conditions and medications. The front of the board will be functional for everyday use, with a weekly calendar and space for notes.

It takes time for responders to gather medical information when arriving at someone’s home. According to Salem Fire & EMS Chief John Prillaman, the project will save first responders critical moments as they assess situations.

“When we go to a residence and somebody is having some type of medical issue, we spend time trying to figure out what kind of history they might have, what kind of health history and what type of medications they’re on,” Prillaman said. “We want to make sure that we don’t give a drug that might be contraindicated. This is going to speed that process up and allow these patients to get to the emergency room a lot faster.”

Since the information will already be filled out for those who use the program, that time can be used to focus on the best way to provide care. It will also be incredibly helpful in situations where someone is incapacitated and unable to speak.

A yellow sticker will be included in each packet to be placed on a door or window, which will indicate to first responders that the information is available inside of the home.

“The biggest thing is the efficiency that we will be able to have on the scene, like if the patient is unconscious and the spouse is there but hysterical, and not able to communicate fully with us,” said EMS Fire-Medics Lt. Teddy Crowe.

Crowe said there have been similar programs in the past, but the cost of producing and mailing the forms and stickers was just too much, which is why when the funeral home stepped up to cover the cost, it was a relief to first responders.

“We’ve seen the value of it in the past,” Crowe said. “We’re thankful to Oakey’s. To get the funding to do a project like this, it is definitely going to help patients.”

Cathie Thomas, president of the funeral home, said after hearing about the program, which was already being used in other locations in the U.S., they approached the City of Salem and wanted to help by funding it in the area.

“One thing that makes the City of Salem so successful and a special place to live is that we have the concept that we take care of our own, and that’s what we want to continue to do,” Thomas said. “We’re hoping that this project will be helpful to every citizen in the Salem community.”

There is also an application available for smartphone use that allows fire and rescue personnel to access the information in that way. John M. Oakey & Son has exclusive rights to the app, which is called Vital ICE, and can be downloaded for free.

“If they find a victim that is down, they can look on the phone, and if they have the Vital ICE app, they can access it, no matter where they are,” said John Wilson, vice president of the funeral home.