INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — First responders in different central Indiana communities are making sure they’re prepared to back each other up if a surge in COVID-19 patients puts a strain on ambulances and other emergency medical services.
Bargersville Assistant Fire Chief Michael Pruitt was part of a virtual meeting this week to discuss capabilities for sending ambulances into neighboring communities, like Marion County, if needed.
“If they needed resources from us, we could let them know what we could provide,” Pruitt said. “But we also know that goes both ways.”
Pruitt said it’s important for agencies to stay on the same page when it comes to knowing what neighboring agencies have to offer.
“So if they do reach out, we’ll be able to give them a definitive answer on, ‘Yes, we can provide these services to help you out,’” Pruitt said.
While mutual aid between agencies is not new, Indy EMS spokesperson Brian Van Bokkelen said it’s important that different agencies are prepared to rely on it.
“While it doesn’t happen often, it does happen,” Van Bokkelen said. “So we have been practicing it over the years, and we’re all set and ready to go.”
Pruitt pointed out that central Indiana emergency agencies have had many years of real-world training when it comes to pooling resources from different communities. Large-scale events like the Indianapolis 500 and the 2012 Super Bowl have required coordination between dozens of agencies over the years.
“When we get a surge at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that might require more ambulances, we have it built into the system where we reach out for support, and we’ve always received that,” Pruitt said. “The Super Bowl was a very good experience for all of our responders in the area, as we pulled in resources from outside the Indianapolis area to help back the 911 system up.”
“While we don’t respond to pandemics, we’re equipped to respond to large scale events and large crowds,” Ban Bokkelen said. “This is one of those kind of all hands on deck situations where everyone is ready to go when needed. We’re ready.”
Pruitt said area agencies are also relying on private ambulance companies to handle non-emergency calls in order to keep as many 911 ambulances available as possible. Those same private ambulance services can also be used to support 911 resources, Pruitt said.
“So if we send 911 services to Marion County, and we have to backfill here, we may pull from private services to help back up our 911 system,” Pruitt said.
“Fortunately, we haven’t faced anything that has really pushed the limits of our capabilities, and we’re hopeful that we’re able to stay within these limits,” Van Bokkelen said. “Everything so far that we’re seeing is we are adequately prepared for any surge that might come.”