Trending Topics

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

tulsa firefighter frozen gear winter weather

Photo/Tulsa Fire Department

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.

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.[0]=AZVxBuBP8GeSU9aeC2wSLshU8sW611sas4-JDdXMw0pGAEHGBSvu3omlQ8Eh5FmkXfCLkbXS6he1kThO7ZflKmnKSwSINiMf-j5nKNObP-osQQXv5zAVp9Ajvtb5SgU_V5tMBkmdlotwc5-7eeoB5QdX&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R[0]=AZWdckB5p7w_aU0zt9v390Z_btcW26qWJuZLC3heIxUb7nvefmbfiNhLNmTtDQmMP6ovzNNIrm2PXIzc8-Q4FzirWN5fqVz8rHOtQfb63o1MWgmTKaxzSs_ulKX6FzG6wxMszu-S_NRZke1E07odB8RfeM9ikPVONfrLvyBAc54fPg&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R

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.

In Nashville, weather conditions caused a boating dock to collapse, and first responders rescued 12 people trapped in sinking boats.

Slippery roads also led to close calls for emergency crews, including in San Antonio and Austin, Texas.[0]=AZV-oBDBMJebdrP9BBphSJxSxjipLIO9sNSKbWvrlp-AoGOVu_1TlvvKDs66QyBYpHsqXV_FBAZkMbAkKI1908q5l3AkuC2YYsqdWQIoqbPc4HhJQbPeJqqxfSS1bndBwsF5KZ513XqX9bxgMJeWcPlS&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R

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:

Road conditions:[0]=AZUWkFa9kN99QsUyxDtXgm2Jt0vW_UBEiBjEipg0ZTBWHRh8xNGtmIOs_N_Gjd1s_LFRF81D8h9cA1Ja8Ux97o5kFXRWdLINEFmQGJ2--a9dcGoPGop9f9G3bVQGRMAVAcsUjpdDW6zKOuVHl5i2148tYw4GRdG3-X6v4Efa9KUy8w&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R[0]=AZXTcy0tlxJ_y46jONAdXmCbhXyj8wItBOIs8wdp6BO9_lrH4MRwCLi_KVC_s_kW18VD_fRI1Z8-zw76UdTSJ1BFlS0A0PK7_0rnklynzNAOekKsoWdGVF602tHmsprQdxpC0ZZcV2WmopE9XJ0r5joW&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R[0]=AZUc2GAUgwzl_FQxwMACjFCFbZ4O67_y3WVsihsd_CEOQqjtv-nalhRcJKwh-TuD4-tGCpaV8qLa0ScxHI0BwgyUWfUYXa-k7VL_DgKlg8WyXvwvln3mZfc5O3pFxdAcKT9aTGTtF-_Dmoeu2kmqX5Dj&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R

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.[0]=AZVgBHx-Dxmy0O_4SHshNa4ACWkfBKdACzCin1DF4GLxZQNs53CQ7EWJkT7A5ogH7Sl1GWgBgm0n0y787T3lyRi3Z6yJlB-GD8r7FncCFPaX7ZXdkoUCY3-MydMHATyurFWZ3YcCCktTiHucKZSO146n&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R[0]=AZXG7riaG0QSfsyzQHwQu5uS5Q6TXeFlC_eSA3_dRs5PFUXfIUooFE9dbkIlZf6bKUzhVaD6Vr_4b52vsELAORN6jnySAcDVX7K7xng9EiF8aTH0HEHy8UM3Od9bUEK5yIfHcggJQzHlTouYx_IEve5B&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R

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.[0]=AZU89u85TevFNaNs2UipQo1ZIjEpxBwWl3AM3jPLS_I3Yl3J1d3Ii-P5wtfVxH1D5WoHXmdLGRAJFcGd9z5Ic0Zg8wy_XROA92b_RzpVjhwl1mknrjly9ov_xo-gpSFi162cbbX3qE5feJ8k3VfimEDzrN7zzM_D6LS71TvgG9-bhA&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R[0]=AZVHn25HoelxeCusLcuFhnbIK7LU6H0SVD20GPLRuBdnJUsQ8HvzQQrIdBTn1SOiZOa93GXAhLiXtUa50tbG3UohttfY4qjJN4ai2_JAPXXAaHPXky_oMiEa7IakGZhZjErA7GIerVvtDganj48S6LrJ7qZfRLOsUMRuqv207TzRGQ&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R

Read more

Laura French is a former editorial assistant for FireRescue1 and EMS1, responsible for curating breaking news and other stories that impact first responders. In a prior role at Forensic Magazine, French was able to combine her interests in journalism, forensics and criminology. French has a bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism with a minor in criminology from Ramapo College in New Jersey.