Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Shoppers blaze trail to store

One stop for all your public-safety needs

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLERAIN TWP. — Phyllis Anderson took a break from her walk around Northgate Mall and stopped at the Northgate Station to have her blood pressure checked.

        Dale Von Bargen, a firefighter with the Colerain Township Department of Fire and EMS, placed the blood pressure cuff around her left upper arm and in moments announced her blood pressure was fine.

        “I'll come in about every two or three days,” said Ms. Anderson, who lives in the township and is a mall walker. “I think having this here is wonderful.”

        Northgate Station beckons. A wide-open storefront at Northgate Mall, brightly lit, its tables piled with brochures on fire prevention and public safety, its walls adorned with photographs of Colerain firefighters.

        It is a one-stop public safety shop run by the fire department at the mall since June 1995. The mall station recently was honored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs with a Fire Service Award of Excellence for the Decade.

        Over the five years, the Northgate Station, which may be the only one of its kind in the area, was open just one day a week. It offered the safety bro chures and blood pressure tests. But it has now grown into a five-day operation, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

        “We get to know these people well,” said Firefighter Von Bargen. “We know a lot about their (medical) history. It's a great way of keeping track of them. We're able to help them help themselves.”

        In just the last two months, they have sent five people on to see their doctors or visit a hospital emergency room after they appeared hypertensive and registered high-blood-pressure readings.

        At least one firefighter/paramedic staffs the storefront each weekday. It is done on a rotating basis, with about 12 firefighters participating.

        They take names and sign people up for cardiopulmonary resuscitation classes. They take orders for reflective address signs to put on homes and mailboxes. One day a month, representatives from Hoxworth Blood Center come in and collect 50 pints of blood from donors. About 25 people call each month and ask to have their child's car seats inspected; more than 600 inspections have been done in the past two years. They sell, through Children's Hospital Medical Center, about three child bicycle helmets each month.

        They average about 85 blood sugar screenings and 1,000 blood pressure readings a month. They distribute an average of 10 smoke detectors a month. And they respond to about eight fire and medical runs monthly right in Northgate Mall. A defibrillator is kept at the storefront.

        “You guys are doing a good job,” yelled one mall walker, lifting her arm in salute as she whizzed by the storefront.

        “The rapport (Firefighter Von Bargen) has with people is phenomenal,” said Dave Jennings, a firefighter and spokesman for the department. “Personality helps.”

        Firefighter Von Bargen, who supervises the station, emphasizes personality is important.

        “I want somebody who's personable, friendly, outgoing and knowledgeable,” he said.

        Firefighter/Paramedic Jenny Suder spends one day a week at the station and helps Firefighter Von Bargen with scheduling.

        “I like helping people,” Firefighter/Paramedic Suder said. “This is one more way to reach out.”

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