Spokane Fire, Spokane Valley Fire depts. work together to reduce falls

SPOKANE CO., Wash. — Spokane County has double the rate of fatal falls compared to the entire state, according to the Spokane Regional Health District. This is one reason why both Spokane and Spokane Valley Fire hope to reduce that number through a new pilot program. For both the departments, falls are their top medical calls.

A tone rang through Spokane Valley Fire Department Station 9 on Sunday – it was a call for a fall.

Almost three years ago, a call like that came through the speakers, alerting firefighters to get to Randy Water’s home.

“I was in the barn and I tripped over a trailer. When I tripped over it, I broke my right hip,” Waters said.

He was alone when he fell and broke his hip. It took mere minutes for help to arrive once he got in touch with his wife and she called 911.

“I don’t think it was five minutes, and we had fire trucks and ambulances here,” he recalled. “Just that quick.”

Almost exactly a year later, Waters fell again, breaking his left hip.

His thoughts: “Here I am, doing it again.”

Just like the first time, help was there right away. Local firefighters are always there to help people like Waters.

“When we talk about falls in our community, it could be from a simple trip to a slide out of a chair, or a fall that is injury sustaining,” said Jamie McIntyre, the Community Risk Reduction Manager with the Spokane Fire Department.

Just last year, Spokane Fire responded to about 13 calls per day to help someone who fell. Spokane Valley Fire saw about six calls a day.

“One of the other things is, people think of falls and they think it’s not that big of a deal,” said Greg Rogers, the division chief of fire prevention with the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

Rogers said it is a big deal, because someone could break a bone. With that, they’d be moving less, and that could be a problem.

“The lack of mobility and moving around continues to deteriorate your health,” Rogers said.

So how can you prevent a fall in your home, no matter your age?

  • Remove any tripping hazards.
  • Have good lighting in your home – night lights will help in the dark.
  • Exercise often.
  • Get your eyes checked.

“One of the things we found in developing in this program is that falls are not a natural part of aging. People think that as you get older you fall, but the reality is it’s not really what happens when you age. What we want to do is help people get the right information,” McIntyre said.

In the next three months, both fire departments will be handing out information cards to people they help – but only in a few areas in the city. The card has information about free programs in the community that can help reduce their risk of falling. If they see success and numbers dropping in falls, they’ll roll it out to the rest of each city.

“We know that when somebody has had an event happen, they’re going to be more likely to want to do something to make it change,” McIntyre said.

This is the first program that’s being done through the Community Risk Reduction Coalition, a partnership between Spokane Fire and Spokane Valley Fire. To learn more about the pilot program, click here.

“If you suffer a fall, especially if you’re an older person, don’t hesitate to call us,” said Scott Niebuhr, with Spokane Valley Fire. “There’s a lot of injuries that can happen that people may not realize at first, it’s better to be on the safe side and call us for help.”