When weather delays first responders
During an interview with Deputy Fire Chief Chris Adams of the Chattanooga Dire Department, Adams talked about preventing harm to fire fighters when roads are slick with ice. He mentioned the difference between responding to a fire call when there is no confirmation of an actual fire versus someone calling 911 and telling the operator they see flames.
"When the roads are frozen, that’s when we pull the response back because it’s really a greater danger to send six trucks at that. But when it’s confirmed then that’s not risk versus gain; we know we have to send somebody there," Adams said.
When ice is on the road, fire trucks will not speed to a call for help to prevent causing a weather related accident. Adams said to further protect the firefighters, each truck is equipped with a device to give the vehicles better traction.
"We have on-spot chains that they can flip a switch and it will spin chains underneath the rear wheels to get traction."
Another problem firefighters face is hypothermia, especially if they get wet from the water used to put out flames.
"We’re a uniform service but then if it gets to around 20-degrees,we tell them whatever you need to put on to stay warm, you do that," Adams said.
Paramedic response often requires an ambulance to travel at speeds well beyond the posted speed limit, especially when a patient has only minutes to survive. But don’t expect that to happen when there’s a threat of hidden ice on the street.
"We like to think that speed is of the essence. Seconds do make a difference, however if we save a few seconds due to the ice and due to the weather we don’t make it there, we do no one any good. So it’s important for our crews to be aware of road conditions," said Hamilton County EMS Director Ken Wilkerson.
Fortunately, first responders can rely on 911 dispatchers for help.
"When it’s a challenge with the weather, we staff up information officers who keep track of road conditions, power outages and how the weather is effecting our areas so we can get that information out to the responders," said Hamilton County Emergency Communications Director Jeff Carney.
Experts tell WDEF the information dispatchers provide first responders could be the difference between life and death.