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Best responders at the ready

My Opinion
Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Editor

I’ve said many times that, if I’m involved in a crash or need any medical assistance, I hope I’m in Harrison County when I do.
That’s because in my 23-year career year at this newspaper I have witnessed first-hand, on numerous occasions, our Emergency Medical Services staff, volunteer firefighters and law enforcement participate in training exercises.
The exercises are generally designed as a worst-case scenario. The saying is ‘plan for the worst and hope for the best.’
Last week, a real-life crash occurred along a narrow country road that gave emergency responders a chance to put their training to use. And, just as I would have expected, all involved made it look flawless.
On Monday, Sept. 15, at 3:05 p.m., Harrison County Dispatch received a 911 call about a church bus that had gone down an embankment along Lickford Bridge Road. Within nine minutes, Harrison County Hospital EMS was on the scene, triaging the patients, mostly freshmen and sophomore high school students ‘ all female ‘ and five adult chaperones and the bus driver.
The bus, from Hammond First Baptist Church, near Chicago, was taking students to Indian Creek Baptist Camp and Retreat Center southwest of Corydon when it apparently got too close to the edge of the road and slid down the embankment near Gail Watson’s front yard.
The scene was similar to a training exercise a year or so ago where a school bus had crashed and landed on its side. The training scenario involved casualties and life-changing injuries.
The real-life crash resulted in the Lake County students breaking out part of the bus’ front windshield in order to get out of the bus, and the most serious injury was a couple of broken bones.
Two medical helicopters were dispatched to the scene but only one student was transported via air. Most of the many ground ambulances requested were sent away empty. And a South Harrison Community School Corp. bus transported the majority of the students to HCH as a precaution; a couple of EMS staff members accompanied the students in case there were any problems before they reached the hospital.
What could have been a chaotic scene was orderly, with each patient being checked then removed from the crash site as deemed appropriate. A count was taken before the school bus left to ensure that everyone aboard the church bus was accounted for. And the medical debris that just a few minutes earlier had littered Watson’s yard was gone.
Watson, who was thankful that there were no serious injuries, had her first glimpse at our emergency personnel in action at a large-scale scene.
Gary Kleeman, HCH EMS director for the past 25 years, said last week’s crash was the first time they’ve had to ask for that kind of response.
He noted it was evident that the response went smoothly based on the fact that the last patient was taken away just 38 minutes after they arrived on the scene.
Pretty impressive for assessing 40 people.
But, then again, it’s our Harrison County crew. They spend numerous hours a year training for such disasters. Thanks, in part to riverboat revenue, they have the necessary equipment. It’s why they ask for updated equipment when needed.
I hope it’s a long time before such an event happens again. However, I know there will be something that will require an emergency call to be made, whether it be a crash, fire, flood, tornado or some other situation. And, without a doubt, we have the best responders ‘ both paid and volunteer, as well as those who take the initial 911 call ‘ at the ready.