Medical professionals join boat rangers at Horsetooth Reservoir

New partnership has potential to bring advanced medical care to victims up to 27 minutes faster than before
June 21, 2016

Northern Colorado’s first responders have teamed up this summer at one of the state’s busiest reservoirs to provide the quickest medical care possible.

Poudre Valley Hospital EMS paramedic Braden Applegate, right, joins county boat Ranger Darren Brand on Horsetooth Reservoir on a recent Saturday as part of a partnership between the two entities and Poudre Fire Authority to provide the quickest medical care possible during the summer weekends. Photo by Kelly Tracer, UCHealth.

Through Labor Day, a paramedic from UCHealth’s Poudre Valley Hospital EMS team will join Larimer County boat rangers on Saturdays and holidays. On Sundays, a volunteer emergency medical technician from Poudre Fire Authority will accompany rangers.

“This partnership is important so we can provide, if needed, advanced life support when minutes can change lives,” said Jim Hawkins, senior ranger and boat safety coordinator with Larimer County Department of Natural Resources.

Having a medical professional on the boat could cut response times by 20 to 27 minutes — the time it normally takes, in optimal conditions, for an ambulance to arrive from its stations in Fort Collins to the boat ramps at the south and north ends of Horsetooth Reservoir.

“Getting there 20 minutes earlier really can be the difference between life and death,” said Kelly McCleary, one of two PVH EMS paramedics certified to ride with the rangers.

EMS Horsetooth boat rangers2
First responders ready the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources boat at Horsetooth Reservoir on a recent Saturday. Photo by Kelly Tracer, UCHealth.

Paramedics are emergency medical care providers who have built on their EMT education to learn more skills in administering medications, providing advanced airway support, and resuscitating and supporting patients with significant problems such as heart attacks or trauma. McCleary, along with Braden Applegate, PVH EMS chief, board the boat with almost all the same medical equipment that’s in an ambulance. This includes a cardiac monitor and defibrillator, advanced airway equipment and cardiac resuscitation medication.

To prepare for the busy summer season, PVH EMS paramedics and the PFA EMTs trained together for more than 40 hours in May. Along with responding to injuries that occur in and on the water, the crew may be the first to respond to hiking accidents, snake bites, bicycle accidents or even motor vehicle accidents that occur in areas surrounding the reservoir.

“The boat training was quite intense,” McCleary said. “The boat rangers have such a dynamic crew up there with so much experience. I really love the partnerships that we’ve developed, and I really think it’ll make a difference in improving outcomes and saving lives.”

UCHealth is absorbing the cost of providing the paramedic, while the EMT from PFA is a volunteer. The staffing of medical personnel on ranger boats runs from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day.

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.