Avoiding the trains: Emergency responders adjust for delays

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – For the average Tupelo resident, the train tracks through town cause an inconvenient delay from week to week, but for emergency response vehicles, the stakes are higher.
Emergency response agencies have to plan ahead to make sure the delays are no more than inconveniences since stopped trains are so common in downtown Tupelo, sometimes dividing the city in half for 15 minutes at a time.
“At times it does cause an inconvenience, but, in the example of a heart attack, paramedics are trained to provide the emergency room at the patient’s point of injury,” said Josh Wenzel, administrative director of patient placement and transportation at North Mississippi Medical Center. “If we’re able to provide that treatment before hand, those inconveniences don’t make as much of an impact.”
Wenzel’s staff of paramedics works closely with the Tupelo Fire Department and first responders in the community to make sure anyone needing emergency care receives it as soon as possible.
While there is only one hospital, on the north side of the tracks there are seven fire stations and there are ambulances stationed at Barnes Crossing and in Baldwyn.
“The trains really don’t affect us other than the few seconds it would take to say, ‘Hey there is a train stall, we need another engine,'” said Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker.
Lee County E-911 dispatches ambulances into specific zones.
“The zones come down to Crosstown and go over to Coley and McCullough,” Wenzel said. “We’re able to adjust, and we’ve tried to make our zones where the train really isn’t a factor. That’s not to say we don’t catch delays; we do at times.”
Even though it takes an average of only nine minutes to respond in Lee and Itawamba counties, Wenzel said the first responders are a key factor in emergency response situations.
“Especially in the county, the volunteer fire departments that offer first responders is a huge benefit to the community,” Wenzel said. “Unfortunately, we can’t put an ambulance in every corner. Having them volunteer their time is a huge benefit and put the patient and family at a little more ease. In any emergency situation, minutes last hours.”
Wenzel said the key to avoiding serious delays is to be prepared on the front end.
The paramedics for NMMC have the capability to take an EKG and read the results from the ambulance, which allows for the Cath Lab to be prepared when the ambulance arrives at the hospital. This is another way Wenzel’s team helps to cut down on delays.
“We had a seven-minute door to balloon time,” Wenzel said, referring to the amount of time that passes from when a cardiac arrest patient enters the emergency room until their blocked artery has been stinted.
Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton said the trains have little effect on his department outside of the occasional inconvenience because there are multiple cars patrolling the different zones.
jb.clark@journalinc.com