Rescue workers brave conditions

February 17, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

Although he is a lifetime member of Waynesboro's fire department, Mike Kugler said he acted on his own Sunday to chauffeur Waynesboro Hospital employees to work.

Pushing his Chevrolet Blazer for all it was worth, Kugler said he had just finished driving an X-ray technician to work at the hospital, but he was prepared to ferry more personnel to the hospital for the 7 p.m. shift.

"These people are working for us," Kugler, 52, of Waynesboro said. "They need to be there when we need them."

Emergency personnel braved snow-covered roads to work their shifts Sunday. Some spent Saturday night at stations and hospitals while others worked to clear the way for more help to arrive.


While Waynesboro Hospital remained at full staff thanks to the support of volunteers like Kugler, Washington County Hospital was down about 20 staff members, hospital spokeswoman Maureen Theriault said.

Theriault said the hospital had volunteers who drove staff members to work.

She said the hospital was operating under a modified Code W, an inclement weather policy that meant staff members had to stay on until a replacement for the next shift arrived.

Brenda Wennerberg, shift administrator at Waynesboro Hospital, said obstetrics nurses have volunteered to stay the night in some outpatient beds.

At the Hagerstown Fire Department, Battalion Chief Randy Myers said 40 volunteers were scattered among the six fire stations in the city, but he said 40 sometimes isn't enough in heavy snow.

"If we get a serious fire, that's all we have," he said.

On an average dry day, volunteers would be on call for emergencies, but Myers said volunteers were needed Sunday to camp out at the stations in order to speed up response time.

Myers said deep snow has a way of wearing down firefighters, who must fight their way through the snow to get hoses and equipment where they're needed.

He said roads crews were trying to help out emergency personnel by clearing streets to which the rescue crews had been called.

The fire department has helped rescue squads by sending its snowplow utility out to hard-to-reach destinations.

"Slow and steady wins the race," Community Rescue Service Capt. Chuck Singleton said.

He said that although snow had slowed the rescue service a bit, CRS nevertheless had responded to every call.

"Luckily, everyone's been playing nice and staying inside," he said.

When the county's snow emergency plan is in effect, crews have seven to 10 minutes to respond to calls, a few minutes more than on an average day, Singleton said. But he said CRS was ready and out the door in just one minute.

Also in accordance with the plan, all CRS vehicles were equipped Sunday with all-weather tires. Singleton said chains had been added to a few of the vehicles.

He said he equipped each rescue vehicle with snow shovels so rescue workers could work on the patient while others shoveled the patient's sidewalk to clear a path to the ambulance.

"It's difficult to wheel a gurney through deep snow," Myers said.

Mary Gay Richard, nursing supervisor at City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., said many staff members planned to stay the night in outpatient beds, but said she also had gotten a lot of calls from people who couldn't make it into work for the shift that started Sunday at 7 p.m.

"The emergency room's telling me the snow doesn't seem to keep people away," she said.

Singleton said someone from CRS planned to pick up a member of the rescue crew in Frederick, Md., for his 9 a.m. shift. He said he wanted to keep CRS personnel who had already worked beyond their shifts from putting in too much overtime.

"Improvise, adapt and overcome," he said.

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