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Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Email was Titled; "Back in 1985, You helped me save my sons life"

Story by: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
MEBrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

“Strange, isn’t it?  Each man’s life touches so many other lives,” said Clarence, the angel in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  While it isn’t typical that members of the public safety community hear from those whose lives they have touched, it sometimes does happen.  Late in January 2017, a retired Prince Georges County Firefighter was reunited with two children he rescued from a house fire 58 years ago.  The odds of such a thing occurring twice in a three-month period are unheard of—well, that is until recently, when Pete Piringer, a past employee of the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department, received a very moving email.    

Pete Piringer is no stranger to the majority of residents in the national capital region.   Over the past 40-plus years, he has served as Public Information Officer (PIO) and Spokesperson for the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department, Maryland State Police, District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department, City of Laurel and the Montgomery County Department of Fire and Rescue Services where he is currently employed.

Pete started his public safety career as a civilian dispatcher with the Prince George’s County Fire Department.  His duties included answering incoming 911 calls, dispatching appropriate units, and completing documentation for every call.   He moved quickly up the civilian ranks and began assisting the Public Information Officer (PIO) by compiling departmental newsletters, as well as handling other administrative functions “up the hall” from the dispatch room.

Pete would frequently come down the hall to visit with the other dispatchers and check for any breaking news incidents.  It was typical for him to sit down at a dispatcher’s console or in a 911 position, allowing someone to take a break.  One day in 1985, he happened to be visiting the dispatch center during a time when personnel were particularly busy.  An emergency 911 call came in at a console near Pete, who realized he was the only person available to answer.  Little did he know that many lives would be touched because of the decision he made at that moment—a decision that helped save a life.  Later that year, he met the family at an award ceremony.  However, as with most public safety personnel, Pete returned to work and didn’t think much more about the incident.  He had done the job he signed on to do. 

In October 2016, Pete received an unexpected email that stirred his emotions.  The email was titled, “Back in 1985, you helped me save my sons life”.  He shared the communication with his wife Pat and their daughters but otherwise kept it private for about a month.  While meeting over a cup of coffee, Pete asked if he could read me a recently received email.  However, his emotions did not permit him to read beyond the first paragraph.  He finally said, “I will just send it to you, and you can read it when you have time.”   

Pete Piringer and I have quite a lot in common, starting with us having attended high school in the District of Columbia, St. Johns and Archbishop John Carroll, respectively.  Our siblings were acquainted personally and professionally.  Both of us were volunteer firefighters, Pete at College Park and me at Branchville.  We began our careers as dispatchers and eventually moved into the Public Information Officer position.  Currently, we are both instructors at the Emergency Management Institute at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  Pete and I often travel around the country together for teaching assignments and trade show presentations.  In all the years we have known one another, I cannot recall an instance when I have seen him as emotional as he was over receiving the aforementioned email.  Reading it, however, I understood.   

On that day in 1985, Pete’s decision to answer that 911 call was greatly impactful, even beyond the immediate saving of a young life.  Thirty-one years later, the caller emailed Pete to let him know just how many lives were touched by his actions. 

With permission from the sender, the following is a copy of the email Pete received.   

Dear Officer Piringer,

You may not remember me but I certainly remember you. In 1985, I was living in Laurel, Maryland at the Fox Rest Woods Apartments. I went to check on my toddler son, Michael Dyer, Jr. and found he was not breathing and blue around the lips.  I grabbed him, ran to the phone, and called 911.  I can't recall if you originally took my call or if I was transferred, but you ended up on the line. I was hysterical yet you calmed me down enough and talked me through saving my son's life.  With three quick successive "smacks" to his upper back, an obstruction was dislodged from his throat and my son began to breath again.  Shortly after, the ambulance arrived and brought us to the hospital where Michael was diagnosed with pneumonia.

There was an award ceremony in Baltimore after this event where my family was invited to tell our story and you received an award.  I was so thankful for you and the way you helped me.

The happy ending continues. Michael is now 32 years old. He married his lovely wife, Lauren, on October 1, 2016. Shortly before, he finished his Master's Degree is Social Work, passed his LMSW exam, and presently is working with children and teens. His main goal is to assist the troubled Veterans who return from deployment and need assistance re-acclimating to civilian life.

Officer Piringer, I am eternally grateful to you being there for my son 30 years ago.  He may not be here today doing the wonderful things he is doing or be the man he has become if it weren't for you and your gift of healing...

I've attached a few pictures of Michael so you can see how well he is doing. The last is Michael to the far left, his brothers and sister, and my mother. The miracle - of which you are responsible - continues.

God bless you and yours, Mary-Margaret Avelleyra

I am very proud of my friend Pete, for this and everything he has accomplished during his career. 

It is strange, isn’t it, how each man’s life touches so many other lives? 

Pete Piringer, Chief Spokesman, Montgomery County Fire/Rescue
The happy ending continues. Michael is now 32 years old. He married his lovely wife, Lauren, on October 1, 2016.
Michael finished his Master's Degree is Social Work

"The last is Michael to the far left, his brothers and sister, and my mother. The miracle - of which you are responsible - continues."
Consider a job with Prince George'sCounty as a 911 Call Taker or Emergency Dispatcher.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Friend and Fellow Volunteer EMT Saves Life of County Police Officer in CO Incident

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
MEBrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

Today, a Seat Pleasant Volunteer EMT received an award from the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department for saving the life of a longtime friend and fellow volunteer who is also a County Police Officer.  Additionally, the Prince George’s County Police Department extended its most sincere thanks to Seat Pleasant Volunteer EMT Phil Martin for his quick and heroic action in helping to get emergency help to one of their officers.

The County Police explained the scenario as in the early morning hours of March 3rd, Police Officer First Class Ricardo Biddy who is also a Seat Pleasant Volunteer EMT was leaving his firehouse after his shift in his Prince George’s County police cruiser.  As Biddy pulled up in front of his home which was 15 minutes away, he was on the phone with Seat Pleasant volunteer EMT Phil Martin.  While idling inside his cruiser while parked in front of his home, Officer Biddy’s speech suddenly became slurred and the call was disconnected.      

EMT Martin, knowing something could be horribly wrong, immediately called public safety communications who dispatched Police and Fire/EMS.  Martin then jumped in his personal vehicle and traced Officer Biddy’s route home.   Once Martin located the cruiser, he found Biddy unresponsive inside.  Other emergency units soon arrived and rushed Biddy to the hospital where he got the help he needed.  

It was determined that Biddy’s cruiser was leaking carbon monoxide into the car and the reason he was so sick and had passed out was due to CO poisoning from the car.

The Prince George’s County Police Department is confident that the carbon monoxide leak in Biddy’s car was an isolated to his cruiser alone.  There was repair work performed on the cruiser just a few months earlier at the dealership.  As part of an internal investigation, the department learned Biddy had taken his cruiser to county fleet maintenance in January and February after smelling what he thought were exhaust fumes inside his vehicle.  Testing on vehicle by the county, dealership, and hazmat officials found nothing wrong during those visits. After the medical incident, fleet maintenance workers recreated what Biddy had done on March 3rd and discovered carbon monoxide was leaking into the cabin.  The cruiser was sent back to the dealership which discovered there was a crack in the engine’s manifold.  

Officer Biddy and Volunteer EMT Martin are lifelong friends having met when they were just 7 years old.   At an interagency press conference today held at the County Police HQ in Landover, EMT Martin was bestowed with a Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department’s Emergency Service Award.  Volunteer Martin was presented an award from Deputy Fire Chief James McClelland on behalf of Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale.  The Award read: 

"Your quick thinking and immediate action helped save the life of your friend and colleague and are commendable and worthy of recognition.  Therefore, you are hereby awarded a Fire/EMS Department Emergency Services Award.  Your actions reflect well on you personally and professionally and exemplify the excellent caliber of service we strive to provide at all times and in every circumstance."  

All images by Mark E. Brady, PGFD PIO

Martin and Biddy enjoy the moment

Seat Pleasant EMT Phil Martin describes his actions as Deputy Fire Chief Dennis Wood and James McClelland, Police Officer Biddy and police officials listen

Seat Pleasant Volunteer EMT Phil Martin is presented with PGFD Emergency Services Award
by Deputy Fire Chief McClelland

Police Officer Biddy describes what he can remember of the incident.

Police Officer Biddy speaks of his friend and fellow volunteer Phil Martin.

Hyattsville Furniture Store Help PGFD Medics Improve Living Conditions for Patient

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
MEBrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department continues their innovative approach in assisting citizens with their healthcare needs. The program, titled Mobile Integrated Healthcare (MIH), focuses on linking our residents with available healthcare agencies throughout the county and region.  Through the utilization of community based paramedics and nurses, the program brings healthcare providers to a citizens home to assess and coordinate their health needs.  Based on the complexities of the current healthcare system, many citizens utilize the 911 system as their primary means of healthcare. This innovative approach ensures our citizens are connected with the best healthcare resources available in the region.

The MIH Team initially focuses on those citizens that have accessed the 911 system frequently.  Once identified, the team meets with patients in the comfort of their home to discuss and identify healthcare needs.  During these home visits, the patient is assessed for any acute medical problems, have their medical history and current medications reviewed, and the team will also perform a full home safety assessment.  This home safety assessment ensures that any potential hazard can be identified and corrected.  The overall goal of these home visits is to connect the citizens with services that meet their specific needs, whereas an ambulance transport to the emergency room may not always be the appropriate solution.

So it was that the MIH Team was visiting a patient at his apartment in Hyattsville when they noticed the mans bed and bedroom furniture were missing.  The man, in his 70’s, explained that the apartment complex management removed the bed due to an infestation of bed bugs.  The responsibility to replace the bed is that of the resident.   This patient suffers from multiple chronic conditions that caused him to be transported to the hospital over 20 times in 2016. Since the MIH Team has been working with him (approximately 90 days), he has made only one return trip to the hospital and his health is steadily improving.  The patient is a man of little means and spends most of his income on his medications.  Replacing the bed was not an viable option for him financially.

The patient had to sleep in his living room on a love seat and the MIH Team feared that this sleeping arrangement might have an adverse impact on his health.  Their fears were verified when the gentleman was soon transported to a hospital for medical treatment.

The MIH Team went above and beyond the call to duty and sought to rectify the problem on behalf of their patient.  They visited a nearby Bobs Discount Furniture Store in Hyattsville and explained the situation to the store manager.  Without hesitation the store agreed to donate a bed to the man, deliver and set it up.  Hopefully, with new sleeping arrangements the man can return to a more normal and healthy way of life.

The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department would like to acknowledge the generosity and willingness to help someone in need.  “As firefighters and medics we accept the responsibility to help people in need,” said Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale.  “Bobs Discount Furniture has no such obligation but agreed to help, without hesitation or reservation, and resolve an adversity for a total stranger.”

Bobs Discount furniture was scheduled to deliver and set up a new bed today just in time for the patients return from the hospital.

Damage to Clinton Home Garage from Vehicle - No Injuries

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
MEBrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

A Clinton homeowner is fortunate not to have been injured; however, his attached garage sustained significant damage.  Just before 12:30 pm today, March 22, firefighter/medics were alerted to a vehicle that struck a house in the 7900 block of Godfrey Court in Clinton. 

Upon arrival firefighters found a 2-story single family home with an attached garage.  There was an SUV that had driven partially through the back wall of the garage.  The driver, who is also the homeowner, was reportedly pulling into the garage when for unknown reasons to firefighters, suddenly accelerated and drove through the back wall.  Fortunately there was no damage to the home itself and no displacement is required.

The adult male driver was shaken but not injured and declined transportation to the hospital.

Images courtesy of Ricky Riley, PGFD Civilian Manager of Apparatus Maintenance.

District Heights Townhouse Fire - Surrey Square Lane

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
MEBrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

Prince George’s County Firefighters battled a fire in a District Heights townhouse this morning after several citizens called 911 to report the fire.  At around 8:30 am firefighter/medics were alerted to a fire in a townhouse in the 6000 block of Surrey Square Lane.  Battalion Chief 883 was the first to arrive and encountered a 2-story, middle of the row, townhouse with smoke showing from the front.  As additional units arrived a 360 check of the structure found fire showing on the rear of the townhouse.  A 360 is performed by first arriving firefighters to determine conditions on the rear and any available means of egress from the lower levels.

As hose lines were stretched and water supply established it was quickly determined that the home occupant had made it outside, albeit injured.  An update from firefighters operating on the rear side advised it appeared the fire started on a rear deck and extended up the exterior wall and into both floors of the townhouse interior.  It required about 15 minutes to extinguish the fire.

The homeowner, an adult male, was transported by ambulance to a local hospital for non-life threatening injuries.  The cause of the fire is undetermined.  Fire loss estimates are still being tabulated.

The townhouses on either side of the townhouse of origin were protected by firefighters that prevented any fire extension.  While the adjoining townhouses were not damaged by fire their utilities were shut off for safety reasons.  The County Citizen Services Unit will assist in determining the need for the American Red Cross and assistance for displaced residents.

The only injury was to the homeowner.

Images of rear of townhouse by PGFD Civilian Manager Ricky Riley

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

PGFD Places Rehabilitation Unit In-Service

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
MEBrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department has placed in service a Rehabilitation Unit.  The Rehab Unit is a temperature and atmosphere controlled response vehicle capable of providing medical care at the basic life support level and when available, at the advanced life support level.   "Rehab Unit 800" was officially placed in-service on Sunday, January 7, 2017.

The PGFD Rehab unit is a 2016 Pierce manufactured on a Freightliner M2-106 chassis.  It is powered by a Cummins ISL engine with 330 HP along with a Detroit 12,000 lb. front axle and Meritor 23,000 lb. rear axle.  The Rehab Unit is part of the Departments strategic vehicle replacement program and cost just under $500,000.  The County purchased the unit through Atlantic Emergency Solutions.

This unit is a specialized asset that may be requested to support a variety of incident types within Prince George’s County, the State of Maryland, and the National Capital Region. These incidents may include, but are not limited to, fires, hazardous materials (Haz-Mat) incidents, mass casualty incidents, medical rehabilitation on large scale incidents, alternate care site support, medical surge events, or as a medical treatment area for a large scale planned event.   The unit is dispatched automatically to every significant long-duration incident, on all structure fires and whenever requested by an incident commander or EMS officer. 

The Rehab Unit’s primary function is to provide shelter and basic rehabilitation functions to members of the Fire/EMS Department during working incidents and/or incidents during extreme weather conditions.

The Rehab Unit is currently assigned to the Capitol Heights Fire/EMS Station 805. Personnel assigned to this station include the core of the Rehab Unit Response Team and have adequate training to function in at least one role of the Rehab Unit Response Team.

Prior to officially being placed in-service the first assignment for the Rehab Unit was to provide services at the scene of the apartment building explosion on Arliss Avenue in Silver Spring in August of 2016.  Rehab 800 also provided cooling services for personnel participating in the IAFF Local 1619 Softball Championship in September of 2016 played in extreme heat and humidity.  On both of these multi-day incidents the unit was not fully outfitted with all required equipment, however, was able to provide cooling to assist in keeping personnel healthy.  

The attached images were captured after an apartment fire in the 1900 block of Rochelle Avenue in District Heights on March 20, 2017.  All personnel in images gave consent to be photographed. Every firefighter was required to go through a rehab process prior to leaving the scene.  Vital signs are monitored and documented by members of the Rehab Unit Response Team.

All images by Mark E. Brady, PGFD PIO

EMS transport unit personnel stand-by in the event someone needs transportation to hospital.

Member of Rehab Unit Team tests equipment on himself prior to using on personnel

Advanced Life Support equipment is ready if needed.