The Superior Fire Department upgraded its medical equipment this week with a grant from the Enbridge Safe Community Program.

The $2,500 grant purchased six powered suction units, which will be used to relieve airway obstructions like vomit and blood. The department had been using manual V-Vac units for the last few years, which use a hand pump.

"They worked, but they weren't super-efficient, so with these powered units, much more efficient and it's really going to improve patient care," firefighter and service provider Corey Larson said.

Suction units are used about once every week or two for a variety of medical calls, including overdoses, cardiac arrest and drownings.

"Anytime that there's an issue with the airway in the event that somebody's not breathing, often times, we'll have to suction out their airway," Larson said.

Gold Cross Ambulance uses the same powered suction equipment.

"We try and mimic what Gold Cross is doing so there's not a difference in protocols and guidelines and different training techniques and patient assessment techniques," Larson said.

The majority of calls the department receives involve medical emergencies. Battalion Chief Scott Gordon said 78 percent of Superior Fire Department calls in 2018 - 3,000 out of 3,950 - were medical.

Safe community grants, awarded to local first-response emergency services for towns along the company's project corridor rights of way, are typically $1,000. In this case, Enbridge was able to double up on some budgets to secure additional funding.

"It benefits everybody; it benefits the entire community," said Becky Haase, senior community engagement adviser with Enbridge. "We are comforted to know the Superior Fire Department has the equipment they need in the event of an emergency. It's great for everybody to be a community partner and part of the solution for getting equipment like this."

Over the years, public-private partnerships with local businesses like Amsoil, Husky, Graymont, and Plains Midstream have upgraded fire department equipment and skills at no cost to taxpayers.

"That's the baseline of partnerships when we first started doing this: letting our business partners decide if they want to make their own community safer," Gordon said.

The equipment and training provided by these partnerships come into play in all facets of the job, he said, from medical calls to fires, industrial fires and hazardous material situations.

In addition to the medical equipment, private partners have recently stepped up to fund rescue helmets, flashlights and gloves. The community stands to benefit from them all.

"They don't know it but they're all safer once these go into service, whoever knows when or where they're going to need it, or one of their friends or one of their loved ones are going to need it," Gordon said. "This gives us a better opportunity to save someone's life."

Grant update

Enbridge provided additional 2018 grants to Douglas County Emergency Management for 911 youth education, Maple Volunteer Fire Department for fire hoses, Ashland Fire Department for updating equipment on a truck and Washburn County Emergency Management for radio antenna equipment.

"We also provided $10,000 to CASDA to help provide follow-up services for survivors and $5,000 to the Oulu Heritage Center for their next building renovation," Haase said.

The Safe Community Program is getting a refresh in 2019.

Instead of annually renewable grants of $1,000, the energy company will offer grants of up to $7,500 every other year. The application process and website won't change.