Public urged to help EMS crews get to emergencies safely

Jan. 25—Cold weather and snow can keep first responders from arriving at a scene safely and efficiently, making it vital to clear away ice and other debris at this time of year.

"It can be a real challenge doing our job in the snow," said Andrew King, a paramedic with Buchanan County EMS. "The streets become narrower and cars start to park further out into the street ... we have to keep finding ways to arrive to the scene as quick as possible."

The work of first responders doesn't stop in the winter, and crews are asking residents to help them do their job.

"Any time we're dealing with time-critical injuries like a heart attack or stroke, it's all about us getting to that patient and getting them to the hospital as quickly as possible," King said. "But we want to do that as safely as we can and there's ways residents can help us in doing that. When it snows, clear your steps, and make sure cars are out of the driveway. Obviously, when emergencies happen you don't plan for them, but once it stops snowing, it's best to clear your driveways in case there is an emergency."

It's also important to make sure house numbers are clear and visible.

"A lot of house numbers are written on the street or curbing or they may be on a mailbox or areas that can be covered in snow," he said. "So please have that cleared off because if we can't find you, we can't take care of you."

King also reminds drivers always to follow general procedures when an emergency vehicle is on the road with lights and sirens going.

"Any time you see an emergency vehicle driving with activated lights and sirens, pull over to the right and come to a complete stop," he said. "If we have to maneuver around people and aren't sure where they're going that's going to slow our response. It also raises that risk for an injury accident and we are then required to shut down our emergency response and that's not what we want to do."

King said the safest option is for people to stay at home during bad weather. If you are required to travel to drive with more stopping distance and create plenty of room for first responders to maneuver.

Jenna Wilson can be reached at