I’ll bet you generally don’t give too much thought to our fire department, Pacific County Fire District #1. You want to know they’re here, but you don’t want to have to call them. Even after the devastation of the California fires, raging in the news, you don’t ever think your own house is going to burn down. It’s human nature to say, “It can’t happen to me.” We take those guys and gals in our firehouse for granted.
Last week, at the request of a friend, I attended one of the meetings of our fire commissioners in Ocean Park just to get a glimpse of how things work. There were many aspects of the meeting I found interesting. First, I couldn’t help but notice that the audience of community members present were nearly all female and that the commissioners and officials up front at the table were all older white fellows. I’m sure our commissioners are all community-minded chaps, but having a diversity of perspectives is in my humble opinion always preferable. (Let’s support some women candidates next time around.)
Secondly, we have a public education coordinator, Lani Karvia, who’s doing great stuff (http://pcfd1.org/community-education/). Who knew? Not me. So I decided to find out in more detail what Lani is hatching up in the northwest corner office of the OP fire department building.
Here’s the scoop
Karvia grew up in Montana but, as she says, “I decided I wanted to be next to the ocean, so I drove up around the Seattle area, but I’m really a small-town person and that was just too busy. So I looked on a regular map and saw the Megler Bridge and I decided I wanted to see that. By the time I got to the other side [she was evidently driving north], I stopped. I love it here. I enjoy most watching the storms begin and roll in. Now I see the beach and the ocean from my hill every morning on my way to work.”
Lani has been on the Peninsula 23 years, and she joined the fire department in December 2016, taking the position left vacant by Connie Biggs. Lani managed an adult family care home for many years, but even before she accepted the public education coordinator position, she was the volunteer chaplain both for the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office the Ocean Park fire department. (Her husband, Mike Karvia, is assistant chief of training in the district #1 department.)
Because she was a caregiver for elders, she’d worked closely with hospice over those years and understood both how to comfort families after a death and how to handle all the business items that need to be attended to. Lani is still a volunteer chaplain for both departments, and she’s put together a tremendously useful nine-page check list she calls “After a Death Occurs,” (available at the fire department).
Home safety visits
But it was Lani’s report about elders falling that caught my attention at the meeting. She shared a small graph that indicated some data for her pre- and post-safety visits at homes referred to her by our firemen. When they are called out to assist someone who’s fallen, they record the visit. Often the same folks fall multiple times. Then Lani might be asked to make a house call to evaluate what is going on. Are there loose rugs? Is the individual wearing the right kind of shoes? Are the stairs crooked or dangerous? (These “Senior Fall Prevention Program” visits are confidential, free, and available by appointment: 360-665-4451.)
Her graph indicates that 90 days before she began her safety visits, there were 33 falls. In the 90 days after her visit, there were only 11 — by her estimation, a reduction in falls of 66 percent. During 2018, Lani made 61 home safety visits.
She also indicates that she is creating a care-referral system for folks who are fall-risks. “If the patient authorizes it, we can send out a medical report to their doctor about all the calls we go on so that the doctor knows the patient has fallen. Our report could help the doctor re-evaluate medications or make some other changes that might be needed to assist that patient.” (Willapa Behavioral Health CEO Adam Marquis and PA Steve Bellinger are helping with this project.)
Lani also works with Rebuilding Together if she sees something that needs attention: maybe a stair is loose, or grab bars or a ramp are needed. (Rebuilding Together provides assistance for low-income elders and others who may need home rehabilitation: call 360-642-3634, or write PO Box 283, Long Beach, WA, 98631 for more information.)
Lockboxes, signs and safe babysitting
But that’s not all Lani does. The department can also provide lockboxes that allow emergency personnel to enter a house to assist someone who may be unable to get to the door. With authorization, a home owner can request a lockbox — with a door key — that can be installed in case of emergency. As Lani says, “A lot of times someone calls who is in distress and can’t move. This way when we’re called we can still get into the house without breaking in. Whoever is in that ‘first vehicle out’ [the ambulance or fire truck] can get to that person quickly.” The fee for installation of the lockbox is $35.00 — a modest price for the assurance that emergency personnel can get into your home without you if needed.
Another potential life saving idea is the installation of a reflective address sign. As everyone knows, the idiosyncrasies of Peninsula streets and addresses can be perplexing. For $21, Lani will make arrangements for a sign post for the street ($15) and a set of reflective house numbers ($6) to be prominently placed right by the roadside at your home. This ensures that emergency responders — and maybe your summer visitors as well — will have an easier time finding you.
All of this would easily fill a working schedule it seems to me, but Lani also gives CPR classes around the county — even at our junior high and high schools. And she has a 12-hour class that she delivers for kids who want to make a little extra money babysitting. The class covers how to ask for your fee and keep track of the money you’ve earned (like how to open a bank account). And she even covers how to handle the tricky situation if, when the baby-sitting parent returns, you don’t feel safe or comfortable riding home with them.
Lani wears many hats at the fire department, but, as she says, “I love my job. Fire Chief Jacob Brundage has always been supportive of my work. He’s given me carte blanche to develop programs that involve keeping our community safe. That’s where my heart is.”