Wolfforth EMS assists evacuation efforts

From left, Seth Stevens, Shane Parker and Brian Johnson traveled to East Texas to aid evacuation of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. (Photo by Luke Backus)

Wolfforth’s ambulance service went out of district in the last month – all the way to East Texas where Wolfforth emergency medical services workers assisted with evacuations just before Hurricanes Gustav and Ike made landfall.

Seth Stevens, deputy chief of EMS in Wolfforth, responded to both hurricanes in the city’s new ambulance. Shane Parker, a part-time Wolfforth EMS worker and a firefighter and paramedic for Lubbock Fire Department, accompanied Stevens to Hurricane Gustav in late August. Parker also was among personnel sent by the Lubbock Fire Department for Hurricane Ike in medical buses.

Brian Johnson, a nursing student and a part-time Wolfforth EMS worker, went to Hurricane Ike with Stevens.

Parker and Stevens said going to Gustav was a bit like camping. Because the hurricane shifted course and centered its assault on Louisiana, there was not as much for them to do as had been feared.

“We sat around and waited. They weren’t sure where it was going to land. It was a lot of hurry up and wait. We transported one patient from Gustav. It was from St. Elizabeth (Hospital) in Beaumont to Houston,” said Stevens. “Other than that, we sat around in Beaumont. After we took that patient to Houston, we went to San Antonio and sat around there, then came home.”

Parker and Stevens slept inside the ambulance for two days in Beaumont while surrounded by 300 other ambulances, all running, which made a lot of noise to sleep over. Ambulances have to remain running in order to keep medications at a certain temperature.

“Thank goodness Wolfforth has that big ambulance, because sleeping in one of those smaller ones would have been miserable,” said Parker.

“We didn’t sleep a whole lot,” said Stevens. “I was ready to be home and sleep in my own bed.”

Stevens said all the ambulances were there to prepare for what could happen – even though it was not as bad as state officials feared.

But less than two weeks later, Stevens was back in the ambulance and headed for East Texas again, this time with Johnson, to help evacuate people in the path of Hurricane Ike.

“We went down and sat around quite a bit, but we were able to help out and transport four people,” said Johnson.

In neither of the two storms did the workers see any storm conditions. From Ike, Johnson and Stevens returned on Friday night after the storm that flooded Lubbock, just as Ike was hitting. They just missed the Lubbock flooding and the hurricane winds in East Texas.

“It was, for the most part, calm the entire time we were there. It was kind of funny, knowing there was a hurricane coming. It was partly cloudy skies and fair the whole time,” said Johnson.

The men said the planning involved for the evacuations was impressive.

“It was much larger than I expected it to be,” said Johnson.

“Preparedness goes a long way. Thank God we didn’t have another Katrina in our home state or anywhere. I think preparedness pays off. I think the state did a good job in planning for this,” said Parker. “That one deal we did for Gustav is probably one of the largest evacuation efforts in this nation’s history. It was kind of cool to be a part of something like that. It was definitely a good learning experience.”

Parker said President George Bush spoke to EMS workers in San Antonio on Labor Day helping out with Hurricane Gustav, but there were no news cameras present.

Stevens said Wolfforth has never been able to take part in efforts like the hurricane evacuations before.

“We bought a second ambulance, and that allowed us to do it,” said Stevens.

The city of Wolfforth will be reimbursed for all expenses by the state of Texas, he said.

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