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Lessons learned: Emergency workers ready to battle heat

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 8:29 a.m. CDT

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(MCT) DECATUR — Medical crews are more equipped than ever to meet the needs of visitors to the Farm Progress Show.

A new field hospital in an air-conditioned blue tent received about a week ago will be among the tools available to medical personnel at Progress City in Decatur, said Bill Wood, director of emergency medical services for St. Mary’s Hospital.

The field hospital has five beds and contains nearly $300,000 worth of equipment, some of which Wood said was used in the old St. Mary’s emergency room.

The tent can be used at future events, including the Rodney Miller Triathlon, and in emergency situations, he said. Funding for the field hospital came from St. Mary’s, along with state and federal grants.

He said medical workers are preparing for the possibility of treating several people, especially with the extreme heat expected this week.

“We want to be prepared,” Wood said. “This is a community. It’s another town where we’ve opened up a hospital with all emergency services available.”

Personnel from the Decatur Fire Department and Decatur Ambulance, along with several surrounding departments including Argenta-Oreana, Harristown, Sullivan and Arthur, assist with the efforts, Wood said.

The Decatur department rotates engine companies, partially to learn the layout of the site in case they’re needed to respond to a major incident, Wood said.

“We can’t do this alone,” he said. “People coming in here are in better hands than they would be at home because of the people here and how quick they can get there.”

The Harristown Fire Department is assisting with the Farm Progress Show for the first time, Chief Steve Gambrill said.

Crews are using a Mutual Aid Box Alarm System tent as a break room, but it can be converted to serve patients. Gambrill said a similar system has been used in emergency situations in other areas of the country.

Those needing assistance at the show are asked to call 911 with their location. Wood said emergency responders will find them rather than have somebody try to track them down on site.

As of Monday afternoon, only a couple of patients needed to be treated and transported to a hospital, Wood said. The hope is that fewer people will need treatment than in 2007, when similar hot temperatures were experienced during the show.

Wood said officials want to avoid the need to transport people to an area hospital as much as possible.

“They didn’t come here to see St. Mary’s,” he said. “They came here to see the latest farming technology. The goal is get them healthy enough so they can continue their journey.”

After the 2007 show, Wood said the first-aid tent was moved to the northeast corner of Progress City, just off Mound Road, to make it easier for ambulances to get on and off the site.

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©2013 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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