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Everything's Coming up Roses for Silicon Valley FAST

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Founded in the early 1970s, the First Aid Service Team (FAST) based out of the Silicon Valley Chapter is considered to be one of the most experienced American Red Cross FAST groups in the country. With more than 300 medical certified volunteers supporting approximately 200 events each year, Silicon Valley FAST provides event and medical services for an area that ranges from Napa in the north to Monterey in the south and includes San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Oakland, and surrounding communities.

Because of the group's long history and expertise, FAST teams from around the country view the Silicon Valley team as an ideal training partner and collaborator.

In fact, that's how a team from the Los Angeles Region felt recently after representatives of the two teams agreed to meet to share information about operational "best practices."

Over the course of several joint meetings during the summer of 2015, Silicon Valley FAST and the Pasadena-based FAST shared details on everything from paperwork to field-operating procedures, and even internal organization. The partnership with the Silicon Valley team was so well received that a decision was made for members of the Southern California team to see their Northern California colleagues in action.

The Gilroy Garlic Festival, one of the larger Northern California events of the year, proved to be a perfect venue for that collaboration. During the three-day festival, the two teams worked side-by-side, responding to hundreds of medical cases, including such emergencies as heat stroke, intoxication, and traumatic injuries.

The FAST leaders from Pasadena were so inspired by the joint training on site, organized by Silicon Valley FAST events chair Matthew Stein, that they invited the Silicon Valley team to help support one of Southern California’s largest events, the Rose Bowl Parade. Almost a dozen individuals jumped at the chance to not only help their sister team, but also to see the famous event up close.

The two FAST groups organized 12 medical response tents, each having its own mobile medical and supply unit. The teams acted as first responders — providing first-on-the-scene medical services — for parade participants, as well as the one million spectators who lined the five-mile-long parade route.

Silicon Valley FAST member Karen Becker was on duty in Pasadena for a total of five days: two days at the pre-event Band Fest, a day at the parade, and two days at the post-parade event that enables visitors to view the floats.

"It was a very challenging event, requiring me to utilize all of my FAST skills during the five days," she says, adding that she treated people for everything from dehydration, to hematomas, to anxiety attacks. "And, of course, there were plenty of the usual scrapes and blisters."

Becker even made herself available to help as a sign language interpreter at the parade. She described the total experience as "exciting," adding that it was "very educational to see the operational differences and similarities between the two teams."

Becker says the partnership between the two FAST groups is not only a prime example of unity and respect, two fundamental values of the Red Cross, but it also has improved the two teams' overall effectiveness.

Peg Geringer, chair of Silicon Valley FAST, agrees that the collaboration between the two groups has been mutually beneficial. Between the two encounters, the groups were able to redesign their systems for tracking and logging patients — taking the preferred style of formatting from the Silicon Valley team and the user-friendly color coding system employed by the team from Southern California.

"Each team learned something from the other that could be applied back home," Geringer says. "Both teams are looking forward to working with each other in the future, beginning with an invitation our team members have already received to work the Rose Bowl Parade next New Year's Day."