Northland Emergency Response time increases in bad weather situations

By KBJR News 1

March 17, 2014 Updated Mar 17, 2014 at 6:30 PM CDT

Superior,WI/.Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)--- Being a first responder is a critical job at any time. While icy and snow covered roads mostly keep the public home, emergency crews have a duty to respond even as travel conditions are deteriorating.

"In good weather conditions, in most parts of the city we have 3 to 4 minute response times, and generally on the 3 minute edge of things, if theres a bad snow storm going on, that could get up 10 minutes," said Vern Johnson, Battalion Chief for the Superior Fire Dept.

Deep snow makes for slippery roads. Plow trucks take to main roads first, making it more difficult for emergency personnel to reach those needing help on side streets and alleys. The extra time spent getting to calls because of bad weather can be critical.

"If you've having a heart attack or a severe medical or bleeding issue, those minutes count obviously,. so yes it does impact our ability to get there as soon as we'd like to," said Johnson.

During the last big snow storm, Gold Cross Ambulance was unable to reach a man in South Range Wisconsin due to impassable road conditions. Without the help of a plow truck, the man might not be here today.

"12 inches to 24 inches you're basically just drifting the ambulance along, you gotta keep the momentum up or you're gonna get stuck," said Tony Boespflug, paramedic for Gold Cross Ambulance.

Another issue facing responders when the snow piles up is cars getting stuck, or illegally parking on city streets, potentially blocking access for emergency vehicles.

"If it's a medical call, sometimes the ambulance calls might have to hike a little further in, you know it reduces response times, if there's a fire those fire engines and fire rigs might not be able to get as close to the scenes as they would like to be able to work on a fire, so obviously there's a public safety issue," said Sgt. Ryan Morris for the Duluth Police Dept.

Regardless of the conditions, emergency crews are always rising to the challenge.

The storm is expected to start after midnight and drop another four to eight inches of snow on the Northland before it wraps up Wednesday morning.

Written and posted to the web by Raeanna Marnati