Tone signal developed for Wood

PARKERSBURG – The Wood County E-911 Advisory Board has implemented a new tone signal to alert first responders of a potentially life-threatening situation when crews are busy on multiple calls.

The tone signal is designed to get a crew to quickly respond to the emergency.

The advisory board held a special meeting Monday evening to address the emergency medical service protocol for Wood County 911.

The meeting was held at the urging of the E-911 officials and the Wood County Commission after concerns were raised in early September by Vienna officials who said a callout for an “unresponsive” woman at a Vienna residence resulted in no local ambulances being available to respond.

Wood County E-911 Director Randy Lowe said he met with representatives from St. Joseph’s Ambulance Service and Camden Clark Ambulance Service to develop a solution.

”At the present time as we dispatch now, neither ambulance service knew when all ambulances were busy,” Lowe said. ”They knew when their ambulance service was busy, but they did not know when all of the ambulances were busy.”

Ambulance officials agreed that when all of the ambulances are busy a special tone needs to be broadcast that will alert them there are no ambulances available for a medical call. They will need to clear what they are doing as soon as possible or possibly divert someone from non-life threatening emergency to handle it.

If there is a medical call during that time and no ambulances are still available, they set the tone off again and broadcast the nature of the call.

”If it is an unresponsive person, we can set the tone off,” Lowe said. ”Hopefully, that will alert everyone and they will listen for the information coming next. It would be up to the ambulance services to divert an ambulance from something that is not as serious.”

In this instance, dispatchers would usually call Belpre to respond, but at the time the Belpre ambulance was having work done and was out of commission, officials said.

”That is rare, but it did happen,” Lowe said.

The other option was to call Wirt County, which was done, but it would have taken Wirt County awhile to reach the call in Vienna.

Ultimately, the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched, even though it is not qualified to do those emergency medical calls, to mark the house so emergency medical crews knew where to go.

Dispatchers then called the Parkersburg Fire Department to do the medical transfer, which is not part of its normal protocols.

Ambulance officials called for a need to secure more mutual aid agreements to have a wider base to call from in an emergency.

However, officials pointed out that some counties will not allow all of their trucks out of a county at one time and leave their areas uncovered.

Officials said there have been times Jackson County has responded to calls in southern Wood County; crews in Washington County have crossed the Ohio River into West Virginia.

The advisory board voted to implement the new tone, which Lowe said could be in place within 24 hours.

Justin Miller, whose mother was the focus of the Vienna call, said there was a lot of confusion and at one time family members considered putting her in their vehicle and driving to the hospital.

Miller asked if all of the ambulances were in service at that time.

Both ambulance services are private and set their schedules with personnel and equipment.

Lowe said their records showed there were four St. Joseph’s ambulances working that day during the call. Two of them were on transfers and two were on medical calls.

Camden Clark had two ambulances working and both were involved in medical transfers, Lowe said.

”Both Camden Clark and St. Joe have done an excellent job in providing medical service for the county,” Lowe said. ”I can’t speak to how many they were supposed to schedule or if they had more out than typically.

”Our dispatchers used the resources they had available and the protocols they had in place.”

Officials with St. Joseph’s and Camden Clark Ambulance services agreed to look at the resources available and determine a better way to handle these situations and report their findings to the Wood County Commission.