Three years ago, Debbie Vanek of the San Ramon Fire Protection District wanted to improve the quality of fire and life safety for the elderly living in Alamo, Danville and San Ramon.
She formed the Residential Care Facility Working Group, to work with local facilities that care for the district's elderly and helping them understand everything from the importance of fire and building codes to teaching staff CPR.
For her work, Vanek, who is a Fire Code Compliance Officer, was given the International Code Council (ICC) Community Service Award at the council annual conference in Porland, Ore. on Wednesday.
The award is presented to an individual or organization who promotes public health, safety and welfare by initiating activities or actions which are considered to be above and beyond.
“Debbie is very deserving of this national award,” said Christina Jamison, Fire Marshal for the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District. “We are very proud of her and all the members of the Residential Care Facility Working Group for their accomplishments and contributions to enhancing the safety and care of those living and working in residential care facilities.”
The group set out to improve the relationship between local emergency service providers and care homes, educate the owners of these facilities on the importance of following fire and building codes, reduce the number of non-emergency public assistance calls through training and encouraging caregivers to learn and begin CPR prior to the arrival of emergency responders.
Over the past three years, Debbie has increased communication and compliance through the “Caregiver Connection”, a quarterly e-newsletter, and an updated senior safety webpage. She has successfully hosted annual workshops geared to train and educate caregivers on numerous topics. On top of that, Vanek has coordinated quarterly trainings on such topics as hands-only CPR, proper use of a fire extinguisher and the correct way to assist an elderly person who has fallen.
“In recent years, many of the care homes were reluctant to begin CPR prior to the arrival of paramedics,” said Captain Andy Swartzell, Emergency Medical Services Coordinator for the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District. “Since Debbie began working with the care homes, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of times CPR has been started, ultimately giving the patient the highest chance of survival.”
--Information for this article was provided by the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District.