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Dry-erase boards could be life-savers

Grocery list. Emergency contacts. Pacemaker model number?

These are some of the lines waiting to be filled in on a dry-erase board being given out by Will Funeral Chapel.

Terry Rietveld, director for Will Funeral Chapel, said the boards are free to anyone who wants them, and are available at the funeral chapel on 210 E. Green Drive in Mitchell, or at the Mitchell Fire Division on 201 W. First Ave.

"I have one on my refrigerator," he said. "I use it for my grocery list."

On the front of the magnetic boards is a dry-erase marker, and space to jot down daily tasks, notes and important phone numbers. On the back, there are spots for two people to fill out their basic medical history, including any conditions they have been treated for -- aids, cancer, diabetes, heart condition, etc. -- current medications and known allergies.

The boards also come with a bright yellow sticker that says "EMS 911." The idea is to put the sticker in a window or highly visible area, so when a paramedic or emergency medical technician arrives on scene, they see that sticker and know to look for the EMS -- emergency medical services -- board on the refrigerator.

Rietveld said he visited with local emergency personnel and decided something like this would be helpful. He found a company that makes the dry-erase boards, which he likes because of how fast and easy they are to maintain and update.

"If something changes, this is an easy change. Just wipe it out and start over," Rietveld said.

Paul Morris, assistant chief of fire and EMS for Mitchell, said he appreciates any efforts to make patients' medical histories more available to emergency responders.

"It's especially helpful if a patient is unresponsive and unable to answer questions," Morris said. "It's going to help us treat them better."

Mitchell's Fire Division and EMS Division are both housed under the Mitchell Department of Public Safety. Morris said there are 22 full-time EMS shift personnel, plus eight part-time. Of the full-time EMS employees, Morris said 14 are paramedics, and the rest are EMTs.

Morris said it's fairly common for family members of a Mitchell resident to ask EMS personnel to check in on, for example, their grandmother who won't answer the phone. In those cases, Morris said the responders might find grandma unresponsive, lying on the floor. Without knowing grandma's medical history, and her unable to talk, Morris said it's hard to pinpoint the proper treatment right away.

"There's a thousand things that could make somebody unresponsive," Morris said.

But if the EMS crew can find this dry-erase board on the fridge and see that grandma is a diabetic, Morris said emergency responders can immediately start standard diabetic treatment protocols.

"It's a matter of saving time, and getting the proper treatment to the patient quickly," he said. "The more information we can have on arrival on scene, the better off we're going to be and, more importantly, the better the patient is going to be."