By Larry Dietz
The Gilroy Garlic Festival has been a summer highlight for 39 years. Each year over 100,000 fans gather to enjoy cuisine and entertainment and shop for crafts. Since 1979, over 4 million visitors have helped generate over $11 million for charity.
The Festival takes place in a small town — and like any small town, medical services can be stretched very thin. The Silicon Valley First Aid Services Team (FAST) has been there for 30 of those 39 years and is one of only 20 such specially trained teams in the Red Cross medical teams in the U.S. They support over public and corporate events each year throughout Silicon Valley.
Red Cross FAST volunteers are at least Emergency Medical Response (EMR) trained, which means that they have necessary tools to help sustain life, reduce pain, and minimize injury during out-of-hospital medical and traumatic emergencies — while awaiting or alongside higher-level personnel at the scene. The team includes EMR, EMTs, RNs, and Physicians all working together to help the public. If advanced care is needed, they leverage professional agencies that then take the patient to advanced care. Yet by providing this first level care, over 97 percent of patients are treated and released without ever having to go to the hospital.
Silicon Valley FAST has provided an array of needed services for Festivalgoers, volunteers, and vendors. This year, 60 volunteers served for the 3-day duration of the festival and treated over 450 members of the public.
Services range from preventive care through minor medicals to very serious injuries. For example, FAST provides complimentary Blood Pressure screening as a part of the Stroke Awareness program of the Stroke Awareness Foundation.
Minor injuries run the gamete from annoying blisters, cuts on the hand or knees, abrasions, and bee stings. The team provides on-the-spot treatment to relieve the pain and comfort the injured.
On the more serious side, conditions can include chest pain, strokes, severe heat stroke, and dehydration. For those serious conditions, American Red Cross works closely with its sister agencies such as Gilroy Fire, CalFire, and Rural Metro to assess and treat on-site if possible; when not possible, these patients are transported to the closest medical facility.
To adequately support an event of this size, the Red Cross brings over 40 trained medical volunteers to staff medical carts positioned throughout the festival, as well as two large medical stations.
The Garlic Festival is only one of the many public and corporate events supported by FAST. The volunteers of FAST are worthy ambassadors of the Red Cross principles.
About the author: Larry Dietz is a Colonel (Retired), U.S. Army Reserve, as well as a dedicated Red Cross public affairs volunteer in the Silicon Valley Chapter.
About the photo: Red Cross volunteers Liz Dietz, left, and Peg Geringer were among those supporting FAST's work again this year at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.