“All I know is, when we mentioned smoke and that we needed help, we had at least ten people who had the day off drop everything, even if they were with their families, and come in to help. We have the most committed EMS professionals that any city could hope for,” boasts Kenny Hoffman, operations manager at American Medical Response (AMR) in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Hoffman’s unabashed pride in his team stems from an incident that happened in August, when a local plant that specializes in the manufacturing of glass products experienced a leak.
“The call came in around 1:30 in the afternoon that a furnace full of molten glass had ruptured at the Vitro Architectural Glass plant,” recalls Hoffman. “The leak caused hot, molten glass to escape into a room, resulting in some employees suffering from super-heated air injuries.”
Hoffman says from that point onwards, personnel at the operation, whether off duty or on duty, took on some role or responsibility to help with the situation.
“It could be staffing trucks, dispersing extra supplies or getting water and Gatorades iced down for patients and crew members. Whatever needed to be done was done and with very little direction,” said Hoffman. “Our dispatcher kept everyone informed and managed the event better than any dispatcher I’ve seen.”
Hoffman, who adds that his team received assistance from three other agencies, says in addition to caring for patients — most, if not all, who were employees from the plant— his crew also had to battle the sweltering, Texas summer heat.
“All this work was done in the midst of 105-degree temperatures, and that’s just what it was outside. Inside the plant, temperatures were anywhere from 300 to 1000 degrees,” he said.
In all, EMS teams treated eight patients: five were transported by ground, one by air via Air Evac Lifeteam and two left on their own by private vehicles.
“All of the patients were triaged and transported from the scene in less than 35 minutes,” says Hoffman. “What started as a mass casualty incident in the afternoon finally ended around 10 that night after the crew set up a rehab station for the local fire department and made sure everything was okay.”
It was quite the day for Hoffman’s team. And while the high-level of service was par for the course for them, the skill, collaboration and resolve that was demonstrated on that hot, August afternoon will not be forgotten any time soon, at least not for Hoffman.
“I’m really pleased with this team. These guys are the best. I never had any doubt that they were prepared to handle this scenario,” said Hoffman. “They have the dedication and professionalism to get the job done, regardless of what’s going on.”