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Snow Covered Sidewalks Cause Delays for Ambulance Crews

Updated: Thursday, February 6 2014, 03:34 PM CST

Between heart attacks while shoveling snow or injuries caused by falling on ice this is a busy time for EMTs and ambulance services.

But snow covered roads mean slower moving traffic, and that affects the response time for emergency responders.

A combination of impressive snow totals and windy conditions are making it especially difficult to keep roads clear, but local paramedics say road crews take extra care to clear routes to hospitals. The trip to a home if there is have an emergency is a different story.

"Right now I'm looking out for cars that are missing the lights, like not stopping in time and running the red lights. I'm also looking out for pedestrians because the sidewalks aren't clear so they have to walk on the streets that are clear," EMT Shea Owens said while driving his ambulance on Springfield roads.

Owens says handling the heavy ambulance in the snow takes some practice, and like any other drivers on the road in this weather he has to slow down. That means it will take a little longer to for the ambulance to reach its destination for an emergency call.

Paramedic Bob Kayma said once the ambulance arrives on scene, crews can make up for lost time.

"We are equipped to pretty much handle anything. We have all the tools necessary, all the technology necessary to do what we need to, so if we need to take a little bit longer to get to the hospital or go a little bit slower to be safe, we can continue our treatment just like they are in the ER,” Kayma said.

In snowy weather, Kayma says a lot of their calls come from falls from icy or slick conditions, and injuries incurred from overzealous snow shovelers. He notes they do not receive a significantly higher amount of calls during winter than other seasons.

The good news for ambulance crews is that if a street is too bad, local road crews will help out by plowing the road ahead of the ambulance. American Ambulance Service Crews says drivers even seem more aware of them on slick roads as well. Although, they say some drivers are still unsure how to react when they see ambulance lights in their rear view mirror.

"An ambulance will always approach on the left hand side, so that you're able to get over at least one lane. You'll never see an ambulance--unless traffic is at a stop-- go along the right hand side to pass them," Owens said.

Another issue for ambulance crews is trying to get a stretcher into homes if sidewalks haven't been cleared. It will take longer for help to get to an ill or injured person if EMTs have to shovel their way to the door.

Residential streets in the Springfield area are still mostly snow covered and more difficult for an ambulance to get through. The main roads around town have been plowed, but ice from melted snow will be an issue overnight.

For home or business owners who’ve been putting off clearing
sidewalks, keep in mind there is a hefty fine for neglecting snow on walkways.
City ordinance requires these areas to be clear by 10 am following a snow
storm, or face a fine up to $250.

Snow Covered Sidewalks Cause Delays for Ambulance Crews

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