Confluence Chronicles – Where City & County Meet 6-14-10
June 14, 2010
Rural emergencies are often compounded by distance and that is something to keep in mind if you contemplate moving to the country.
Depending on available staff, ambulance crews may have paramedics, intermediate Emergency Medical Technicians, or basic EMTs on board. Drivers, not required to be EMTs, are also helpful to have on the roster. Having drivers allows for fewer medical personnel to respond to any particular incident, leaving the medical personnel free to remain at places of employment and be available to take other calls.
Unless you are actually on an ambulance crew, the most help you can be in an emergency situation is to either go yourself or send someone else to meet the ambulance and lead it to the scene. This has traditionally been a necessity in wide-open rural areas, even when neighbors knew each other well. Now with increased subdivisions, a constant barrage of new residents, and secluded homes, it is increasingly necessary. Ponder possible emergencies and actions that you could take to help emergency personnel locate your home. Prominent residence numbers are the first and most imperative step.
More and more large regional hospitals that are the trauma centers for rural areas are acquiring Flight for Life teams and equipment. They are called in to service in case of the need for Advanced Life Support (ALS). Generally unless your injuries are life-threatening, you will be transported by ground ambulance. This can take a lot of time. We are talking commonly at least 30 minutes of transport time, after a patient is loaded into an ambulance. Bear in mind that does not count the time it takes to assemble a volunteer ambulance crew and drive to the scene.
Like rural fire departments and ambulances, rural law enforcement takes more time to respond than when in the city. It also offers some unique challenges. To be sure, the crime rate is much lower than in a city, but situations are no less hazardous. A domestic dispute is the same anywhere, as is a drunk driver.
It gets interesting when dispatch notifies the law that cattle are out on a highway. First the law officer and dispatch attempt to determine to whom the cattle belong. That requires an intimate knowledge of where the rural residents live, the type of animals they keep, and where those animals belong. Knowledge of reading brands is also helpful as the brands show ownership. Frequently when the animals are on a state or federal highway there is more traffic and that increases the risk of accidents. While dispatch tries to ascertain ownership, law enforcement officers try to herd the animals away from the highway. Officers usually are in their vehicles but they have been known to chase on foot, if necessary. Even though you might think that enforcing the law in a rural area would be boring, where else would a lawman have the opportunity to be a drover during duty hours?
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Peggy frequently meets the ambulance when her EMT husband is responding to calls near their family ranch in southwestern South Dakota. Her e-mail is Peggy@PeggySanders.com.