At 9:09 pm on March 13, 2023, East Meadow volunteer firefighters and EMTs were alerted to a “Carbon Monoxide Emergency with Possible Multiple Aided” at a residence on Buchanan Road.
Just prior, East Meadow Pediatrician John Zaso had received a call from the resident stating that many members of the home were getting sick, all at the same time. Doctor Zaso, also the Medical Director for the East Meadow Fire Department’s EMS system, informed the resident to have everyone exit the home, and call the fire department out of concern for a potential poisonous atmosphere, many times the result of exposure to carbon monoxide. Responding to the scene, monitoring the fire radio, and realizing the alarm had not been called in, Dr Zaso called the incident in himself putting the wheels in motion for a large EMFD response.
By 9:10pm all four East Meadow Fire Chiefs were en-route, immediately followed by “First Due” Heavy Rescue 616 at 9:13pm. Ambulance 6144, Ambulance 615, Engine 611, Ambulance 6115, and Ladder 617 soon followed, filling out the 1st alarm assignment.
Chief of Department Peter S. Cheswick soon arrived on the scene announcing a “Mass Casualty Incident” (MCI) confirming several residents of the home sickened as first in Chiefs quickly recognized the eminent danger of rising levels of Carbon Monoxide. (The MCI announcement puts Nassau County Medical Control and area hospitals on the alert to plan and prepare for an incoming large scale incident).
Command of the response was coordinated by Chief Cheswick establishing East Meadow’s Incident Command System, while working with Asst Chief Michael Wood on coordinating the EMS side, as Asst Chiefs Phil Fertitta and James Walsh geared up with firefighters to resolve to incident within the home.
Immediately Chief Cheswick made several radio transmissions to dispatch requesting additional ambulances from the North Bellmore FD, North Merrick FD, Nassau County Police Ambulance Bureau, and the Nassau County Fire Marshal Hazardous Materials Team.
Ladder 2, out on another fire call was immediately re-directed upon completion, to the Buchanan Road incident for their extras fans, gas meters, and to establish a FAST (Firefighter Assist Search Team) in the event something went wrong with any firefighters on the inside.
As firefighters, fully equipped with breathing apparatus moved through the home to ensure everyone was out, they were able to shut down the source of the deadly gas, as meters screamed warnings to highs of 1,450 parts per million. A term known to firefighters as IDHL (Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health).
As the source of the carbon monoxide was located within the heating system and resolved, firefighters used mechanical fans to remove all the gases from the home.
Members on the outside monitored which firefighters were working inside, and their expected exit based on their entry time and their air supply upon entering. This would ensure accountability of all firefighters.
On this cold rainy night members of the East Meadow FD rescue companies, along with all assisting ambulance agencies, would transport (10) residents to area hospitals. Symptoms ranged from mild to moderate with all expected to recover.
If not for the immediate recognition of the imminent danger by Dr John Zaso, this situation could have been far worse. The performance of his duties on this night were a true testament to the highest level of standards found in our department’s rich history.
In all, 43 East Meadow volunteers responded to the incident with another 20 responders from all the ambulance agencies who assisted in treating and transporting the sick.
The next morning Chief Cheswick praised the quick response of all members, and the diligence in which they carried out their assignments to bring a serious situation under control.