How FFs, EMS are handling severe winter weather across US
Firefighters, EMTs and paramedics across the country brave freezing temperatures, face record call volumes and remind community members to stay safe in the cold
Communities across the nation have been inundated with treacherous winter weather conditions over the past couple weeks, with power outages, icy roads and heavy snowfall posing immense hazards to public safety. Fire and EMS departments in hard-hit areas such as Central Texas have seen call volumes skyrocket and responded to catastrophic incidents as a result of these dangerous conditions.
Here are some of the ways fire, EMS and rescue personnel are managing the difficult weather and continuing their lifesaving work through the cold:
Tackling record call volumes, BAD ACCIDENTS
Inclement weather has increased emergency call volumes in many regions, as first responders see more reports of slips and falls, vehicle crashes, exposure, carbon monoxide poisoning and more.
In Texas, Austin-Travis County EMS personnel have responded to more than 1,000 calls per day for several days, including dozens of calls for collisions and carbon monoxide and hundreds for exposure and falls.
Yesterday was an absolutely historic day at #ATCEMS. Our #ATCEMSMedics & Communications staff responded to 1,435 calls for service! Most noteworthy: Falls-93, Exposure-69, Carbon Monoxide-13, & Collisions-9. Help reduce the # of preventable calls that we are having to respond to. pic.twitter.com/jKxqKd3Fdd— ATCEMS (@ATCEMS) February 16, 2021
In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma City Fire Department reported that its call volume more than doubled its daily average, spiking from an average of 228 calls to 518 on Monday and 629 on Tuesday. Officials said many of the calls involve fires caused by improper use of heating equipment and burst water pipes.
In addition to an overall increase in calls, many areas are seeing serious accidents as a result of snow and ice. Chicago firefighters responded to multiple roof collapses due to heavy snow, including one incident resulting in fatal injuries.
113th Corliss roof over driveway collapse. Two people were there one hit away in time the other was trapped. Trapped victim now out condition not known yet pic.twitter.com/U1L0TorQFe— Chicago Fire Media (@CFDMedia) February 17, 2021
Sadly we can expect more roof failures with the heavy snow load and sub freezing temperatures. The failed buildings so far are mostly structures nearing or over 100 years old and vacant or abandoned. pic.twitter.com/c1JlAppR6s— Chicago Fire Media (@CFDMedia) February 16, 2021
In Nashville, weather conditions caused a boating dock to collapse, and first responders rescued 12 people trapped in sinking boats.
NFD and OEM crews rescued 12 people from boats after a dock collapsed. Crews remain on the scene searching for others and clearing other docks that appear to be unstable. No transports have been made from the scene at this time. pic.twitter.com/hybUJGOzFv— Nashville Fire Dept (@NashvilleFD) February 18, 2021
Slippery roads also led to close calls for emergency crews, including in San Antonio and Austin, Texas.
Here’s 1 example of what our crews are dealing w/in #ATX: this “close call” of the C-shift crew from E32 who were helping block the road for E11. This was just 1 of our 152 calls for service b/t 10 p.m. 2/12 - 10 a.m. 2/13; 78 of those were for collisions. Pls stay home! 📹©️AFD pic.twitter.com/juZF8jkMiJ— Austin Fire Dept (@austinfiredept) February 13, 2021
Sending safety messages
While the weather itself might not be avoidable, there are many ways to prevent accidents amidst cold conditions. Public safety agencies used social media to spread information about how to stay safe indoors, outdoors and on the road.
Carbon monoxide and heaters:
As you try to stay warm during this storm, #DCsBravest want you not to fall victim to Carbon Monoxide poisoning, caused by improperly functioning or poorly vented gas operated heating devices. Your best defense are working CO alarms. Be aware of the dangers and the symptoms. pic.twitter.com/gZMtrxL7Ku— DC Fire and EMS (@dcfireems) February 18, 2021
Since midnight, MedStar crews have responded to 6 MVCs, all on area highways. We’ve also treat 2 patients with cold-related illnesses. We’ve also treated one patient for potential carbon monoxide poisoning. Here's info to prevent and recognize CO poisoning. pic.twitter.com/v3ERs3NJW6— MedStar EMS Alerts (@MedStarEMSInfo) February 14, 2021
Chesterfield Fire and EMS would ask you to please follow these generator safely guidelines. We have seen a couple of incidents today involving generators. Carbon Monoxide can be a silent killer. pic.twitter.com/sCjrGxd6Ti— Chesterfield Fire and Emergency Medical Services (@CFEMSPIO) February 15, 2021
If you lost power after the storm last night and are choosing to use a generator, NEVER use a generator or propane-powered heater indoors! Use space heaters and generators cautiously and according to the guidelines provided with the equipment. #330forthe330 pic.twitter.com/RKSiA6Tx61— Akron Professional Firefighters L330🚒🚑🇺🇸 (@fire_330) February 16, 2021
#TipTuesday: With more ice and wintry weather on the way, @VDEM has these portable generator & heater safety tips for you to keep in mind. Stay safe! #WinterSafety #WinterStorm2021 #IceStorm2021 pic.twitter.com/mNJPMqR14E— Richmond Fire Department (@RFDVA) February 17, 2021
If we have closed the road, please don’t drive through or around our cones. There could be dangerous hazards or live power lines. Please don’t travel unless it’s absolutely necessary. Stay safe Woodinville! pic.twitter.com/i8Qutr4p6k— Woodinville Fire (@WoodinvilleFire) February 13, 2021
Please be aware of ice on the roadways before you travel. Only travel if absolutely necessary. We are over half way done...Posted by Harris County Emergency Services District 5/Crosby EMS on Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Falls on hard ice covered surfaces can be serious and even deadly!— ATCEMS (@ATCEMS) February 16, 2021
Our responders are having extreme difficulties responding safely or even at all due to the current road conditions.
PLEASE stay off icy areas!#StayHomeStaySafe pic.twitter.com/HhOSurpb0f
Getting a helping hand
In many communities, the public has rallied around its emergency responders as they worked tirelessly through the storms and freezing temperatures. From keeping first responders fed to keeping hydrants clear of snow and more, good Samaritans have extended a helping hand to first responders.
It's cold and icy out there but these donated boxes of donuts from Sugar Shack certainly warmed our hearts as our crews continue to work. Thank you for the kind gesture! We appreciate it! pic.twitter.com/8EWjc4zwlH— Richmond Ambulance Authority (@RAAEMS) February 18, 2021
A big THANK YOU to Abigail and Brooklyn (and maybe parent?) for helping to keep our hydrants accessible. Good job! 🚒 pic.twitter.com/eRIYSEzo26— Russell Fire Dept (@RussellFireDept) February 18, 2021
Ok Toledo! If these future Toledo Firefighters can do it so can you! Help us help you and clear 3 ft minimum around the hydrants in front of your home. We can’t use them if we can’t find them. Thank you Scout and Grayson for showing us how to get the job done! #toledofire pic.twitter.com/dxU8XOi6Dd— Toledo Fire & Rescue (@ToledoFire) February 16, 2021
Continuing to serve
Despite the difficult conditions, first responders across the nation have continued to serve, working through the cold to respond to fires, crashes, accidents and medical emergencies, and save lives. As Graham (Wash.) Fire & Rescue stated in a tweet, there are "no snow days" for first responders.
We’ve@had a long & exhausting day. Firefighters have been running nonstop all day. Then around 1:30 pm they were dealt a three-alarm fire near 6th & Utica. No injuries reported. #threealarmfire #snowandfireshowing #longday pic.twitter.com/0NkIQat8N4— Tulsa Fire Dept. (@TulsaFire) February 17, 2021
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