Saturday, August 18, 2007

Across the Waves (EMS to the Rescue) Part 1

Just as I was fretting about a lack of decent calls recently, I got to take part in a pretty exciting and unusual call a couple weeks ago. Our service area includes quite a few miles of shoreline on Lake Champlain, and its not unusual to get a call at one of the many private camps out "at The Bay". Lake Champlain has many islands, ranging in size from Grand Isle (big enough to have several communities) to little rock outcrops that manage to stay just above the deep waters of this glacial lake. One of the islands is home to a Vermont State Park: Burton Island State Park. It is accessible by private boat or by taking a small ferry that the park service runs. It has a beach, tons of great fishing, hiking and biking trails, and many really fine campsites.

I was working a 24 and the call came in just about at the end of the regular day-shift, when the day crews go home, leaving just our crew for the overnight. The dispatch was to an unresponsive person at the campground. No other information was available. Of course only one thing came to mind: Code 99.

We jumped in our rig and headed code 3 through the rush-hour traffic. We got to the main intersection in town and had just managed to convince most of the drivers to clear the way, when our truck coughed twice and stalled. I looked at my partner (Kari) who was driving and all I got was the "oh shit" look. She tried the key and it was dead. This truck had done this a couple times in the past week and the repair shop assured us that "nothing was wrong with it, it shouldn't happen again." I grabbed the radio and called back to quarters, hoping that someone was still there. I got a quick response and was explaining the situation when Kari got the truck started and accelerated through the intersection and turned onto Lake St. "Better keep a second truck coming", she yelled over the siren, "in case this thing does it again."

On the radio with our boss, I relayed our plan: To continue towards the dock in hopes that we could make it without the truck crapping out again. If we made it that far, we'd head for the island on whatever transportation we could find, and please have a fresh rig waiting for us on the dock when we get back. If the truck did die en route, the second truck (presumably with a full crew) could leap-frog us and get to the dock to take the call. With that plan in action, we rolled on.

With the truck running better than ever, the state park ferry dock was getting closer. Dispatch had Town Fire rolling for med assist (by now we're almost dead sure its a code, even though we still have no more 43 from the scene), and they have a boat. Are we meeting them (at a different dock) to get to the island or are the park personnel on board with this situation? Between the traffic on our channel (getting the other truck with crew rolling), dispatch (getting Town Fire rolling), and all the chatter between the volunteer firefighters trying to coordinate their response, it was just about impossible to glean the info we needed from the din.

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