County quickly calls for aid from Herington
Two cars collided Monday on U.S. 56/77 just south of the Marion/Dickinson county line, only hours before Marion County commissioners were to review emergency dispatch policies in the wake of a double-fatality accident Aug. 10 at the same location.
Valerie Pesina, 20, of Balch Springs, Texas and passenger Andrew Ramos, 21, of Junction City were northbound at approximately 9:15 a.m. when Pesina drove off the road onto the east shoulder, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol crash report.
Pesina overcorrected, trying to steer back on the road and crossed the centerline, striking a southbound 2011 Ford Edge driven by Howard Hiltz of Albany, Ore.
Pesina, Ramos, and a passenger in the Ford, Sheryl Hiltz, 71, of Albany, Ore., sustained injuries. They were transported to Herington Memorial Hospital.
Emergency units from Tampa, Lost Springs, Lincolnville, and Marion were dispatched at 9:21 a.m. Two minutes later Marion County Emergency Medical Services Director Steve Smith asked the dispatcher to contact Dickinson County EMS in Herington for an additional ambulance.
“Dispatch let me know we had two vehicles with four possible patients, and that told me that even if one was taken by Life Flight, it was still possible we would need additional help,” Smith said.
In a letter to the Marion County Commission dated Aug. 16, Herington resident Teresa Kasten, mother of one of those injured in the Aug. 10 accident, was critical of an apparent delay in dispatching the Herington ambulance.
Smith said it is normal procedure for county emergency personnel to request assistance from other counties when they have assessed a scene. The details he received from the dispatcher were sufficient to make that assessment, he said.
Emergency dispatch procedures were already on the Marion County Commission agenda Monday.
Commissioners plan to meet with the Dickinson County Commission Thursday to discuss a mutual aid agreement between counties.
“We need to step on the gas pedal and do our part,” Commissioner Randy Dallke said.
Kasten attended the meeting and said she was the first to reach the scene of the accident Aug. 10. Her son’s 911 call was the first to reach Marion County dispatchers.
“If a call comes in like that you dispatch whoever is closest,” Kasten said. “If you’re not sure, dispense both. It’s not that hard.”
Lincolnville Fire Chief Lester Kaiser attended the meeting Monday. He said he has an agreement with Dickinson County for fires and rescue accidents.
When discussing the issue with Communications Director Linda Klenda and Emergency Management Director Dan D’Albini, Dallke pointed to a map showing county district lines. The county is divided in quadrants with Marion taking the northeast, Florence southeast, Peabody southwest, and Hillsboro northwest.
“You have guidelines, sometimes guidelines become mandates,” Dallke said.
“Why are you going to dispatch someone from 10 miles away when somebody is three miles away because of a simple line?” Commission Chairman Dan Holub said. “The line serves an administrative purpose and that’s it.”
“We’re trying to make hard fast lines more expandable like a balloon,” Commissioner Roger Fleming said.
It has also been a Marion County practice to have the primary responder ask for second and third responders in any emergency case. This was also something Dallke wanted changed based on the situation.
A concerned resident, Carrie Smith, asked why Lincolnville, Tampa, and other fire departments were not called to the accident on Aug. 10 automatically. Holub and Dallke explained the dispatcher position.
“Sometimes there can be too many people,” Holub said.
Kaiser responded that Lincolnville Fire Department routinely asked if assistance was needed when not called and were asked by a previous communications director to only respond when called.
Klenda responded that for the accident on Aug. 10, that the call came from a cell phone and did not appear on the map dispatchers have available at the station. She added that dispatchers did not know the extent of the injuries on the first calls.
Kaiser said direct calls to Dickinson County EMS are difficult because they are on a different radio bandwidth than Marion County. He said he plans to bring old radios that are compatible in case he needs to call Dickinson County.