New lifesaving, cooling tool will be distributed across San Antonio for heat-related calls

San Antonio Fire Department and EMS are distributing “temp bags” in ambulances.

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio firefighters are busy this summer -- the number of heat-related calls is higher than it was this time last year.

The difference now is fire and EMS have a life-saving tool they didn’t have before.

Ralph Riviello, emergency medicine at UT Health San Antonio, said when someone’s body is this hot, every second matters.

“When their temperature is 103 or higher and usually even higher, like 105-107 kind of range,” Riviello said.

The longer someone has a high body temperature, their chances for brain damage rise. That’s why the temp bag is so crucial.

“We can get pretty rapid cooling usually within, you know, 30, 40, 50 minutes,” Riviello said.

San Antonio Fire Department and EMS are distributing “temp bags” in ambulances. Basically, someone is placed inside the bag with ice and water.

“You’re still able to keep them on a heart monitor, take care of them, put in IVs, do all the normal stuff we’re able to do. It’s a little bit messier because there’s water,” Riviello said.

The San Antonio Fire Department responded to over 250 heat-related calls in June, and that’s a 53% increase compared to this time last year.

“Now we’re really doing it as a big effort across the county and the region to have these bags with the ambulances and have a plan to get ice to any of the big events. If there’s a big mass casualty event with heat-related emergencies,” Riviello said.

The temp bag was inspired by marathon runners and migrants who are saved from hot trucks. So far, the temp bag has been used a couple of times.

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About the Authors:

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.