The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

April 18, 2013

Palestine Regional Medical Center’s AMBUS responds to explosion in West

By MARY RAINWATER
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — Palestine Regional Medical Center’s AMBUS unit, one of only 13 such units in the state of Texas, and a team of seven personnel were sent to West late Wednesday night to assist in the aftermath of the fertilizer plant explosion.

“PRMC’s Emergency Medical dispatch received a call from East Texas Medical Center at 9:11 p.m. Wednesday for deployment,” PRMC Marketing Director Lesa Wells reported. “At the time of the call it was reported that 100 to 150 persons were injured and response teams were still evacuating  the injured.”

Members of the AMBUS team included PRMC AMBUS Crew Chief and Paramedic Mark Neel, Sherry Boyd, James Broome, Wayne Frentress Jr., Keith Graves, Chad Steely and Beverly Warren.

According to Neel, the PRMC AMBUS was one of four other units called to the scene, joining those from Cedar Hill, Frisco and Schertz. The PRMC team arrived in West at about 12:15 a.m. and remained on standby there until about 5:30 a.m.

“All four AMBUSes arrived within an hour of each other,” Neel said in a Thursday interview. “When we got there, we were told that all necessary transports were completed, so we were stationed at the football field to help any ‘walk-up’ patients that might arrive.”

Because they were stationed away from the hub of the activity, Neel reported that his team did not witness much of the goings-on at the scene. Their arrival and exit from West was smooth.

“There were hundreds of responders on the scene,” he said. “When we arrived there was a slight ammonia smell in the air, but we had been station where the headwinds were away from us.

“You could certainly tell there was a smell, but nothing that would cause any respiratory issues.”

This was PRMC AMBUS’s first emergency deployment.

“It was an excellent exercise for the AMBUS program,” Neel said. “We were able to utilize what we have, get the team together and arrive at the scene in a timely manner.

“The response time for all four units was right in line with what it should be,” he added.  It was a really good experience for us.”

The AMBUS is licensed as a specialty emergency medical services vehicle and designed to serve as mass casualty transportation during mass casualty events such as the West plant explosion.

It can also be used to care for the sick and injured on-site, as well as transport emergency responders across a variety of incidents which may threaten the health and safety of those in the region and across the state.

“It was a privilege to respond with the AMBUS in support of the people of West,” PRMC Chief Clinical Officer Christi Watkins said. “Our EMS crew and this level of emergency service will always be available to those in crisis across the State of Texas.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

All four AMBUS units dispatched to West are part of Region 4 of the Emergency Medical Task Force (EMTF), a program set up by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to create a network of regionally based medical teams.

The goal of the EMTF program is to provide a well coordinated response, offering rapid professional medical assistance to emergency operation systems during large scale incidents.

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Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at mrainwater@palestineherald.com