I had someone ask after riding by the Woods Edge Road incident last Saturday night, why did there have to be so many emergency vehicles? I will attempt to answer this question, simply from past experience. From what I understand, a county police officer responded to a call for a disabled motorist on the bridge that crosses I-95 on Woods Edge Road. When the officer or officers arrived, they found a person sitting by the car, with a bottle of alcohol. Per news reports, the person struck the police officer with the bottle, and then jumped off of the bridge, landing in the median of I-95. From a police jurisdiction perspective, this incident went from being a county incident to a county and state incident.
Now, let’s try to give a perspective on the fire and EMS units that responded. Once the person jumped off of the bridge, this became two different incidents, in the same vicinity of each other. The initial response was probably to the man that just jumped off of the bridge. I will go with the situation that will bring the most units. Let’s say that the person landed on the northbound side of the median. Since Chesterfield units would have to get on I-95 in Colonial Heights, units were most likely dispatched from Colonial Heights to assist. Since the incident is in Chesterfield, Chesterfield most likely dispatched one ambulance, one engine, a battalion chief and the tactical safety officer, as well as the ladder truck for the block, all because this incident was on the interstate. Add to this incident Medflight, and another engine has to be assigned to set up the landing zone.
Remember that I said that this became two incidents. The injured police officer also has units that responded to assist him or her. This could be an ambulance or an ambulance and an engine. If I give a rough estimate of units on these two scenes, not including police vehicles, it could easily add up to eleven different emergency vehicles. You might say, all of this for that? The interstate complicates things. Many years ago, Chesterfield Fire & EMS realized that it was just as important to set up a safety barrier for crews working at a scene, as it was to provide care to injured people. You would think that vehicles would slow down when they see emergency vehicles ahead, but that is not the case. Each year, other motorists strike emergency vehicles because drivers are not focused on their driving.
You might not understand the way that the system works, but know this, someone does. Emergency responders have a responsibility to the citizens and to one another. The people working in the Emergency Communications Center determine the most appropriate response to a given incident. Once the first unit arrives, additional help is summoned, based upon need. As one good friend of mine used to say, “You just can’t write this stuff,” meaning that every day brings its own craziness. I am quite sure that this incident offered unique challenges. For some of my friends in the firehouse, I leave you with this; I thought that I had seen it all.