Rain squalls throughout Monday morning could have produced a lot of traffic accidents and other problems for St. Joseph’s visitors from around the world.
“Our goal was for people to view (the eclipse) and make it home safely,” said Wallace Patrick, the executive director for Buchanan County EMS.
It seems that goal was met, as emergency needs were very light on eclipse day.
Planning started more than a year ago, said Bill Brinton, the Buchanan County emergency management director. The decision in the beginning was to plan for the worst, Brinton said.
Buchanan County used mutual-aid agreements to bring 13 additional ambulances, EMT crews and medical all-terrain vehicles to the city Monday. Counties in Northwest Missouri, along with those from Barton, Newton and Shannon counties, provided some of the ambulances. Assistance also came from the Joplin and Springfield, Missouri, areas.
Ambulances started operating Sunday evening throughout the county, Patrick said.
“They were there to help out,” Brinton said.
On Monday, some 30 employees and volunteers manned the Buchanan County Emergency Management operations center, which was filled with state-of-the-art communications, monitoring and dispatching equipment.
Special medical assistance teams were set up at locations where crowds were expected.
Local employees from ARC Physical Therapy helped man aid stations, and emergency medical technicians from Maryland’s Harve De Grace Ambulance Corp. came to ride their bicycles to bring medical assistance to some areas, Patrick said.
The health department and Community Hospital in Harrison County also sent volunteers to assist, Brinton added. St. Joseph Honda supplied additional all-terrain vehicles for the aid stations.
There was even a group of six volunteers with four camera drones ready to help, Patrick said.
“I don’t know how they (Buchanan County Emergency Management) could have been more prepared,” said Darrell Jones, a ham radio operator from the Missouri Valley Amateur Radio Club.
Jones attended meetings for a year, and the club provided 20 volunteers to man radios throughout Buchanan County.
“We were the backup in case the power went down,” Jones said. “You know, the contingency plan for contingencies.”
By 2 p.m. volunteers were being released and briefing sessions were underway with ambulance teams in preparation for closing up shop. Patrick and Brinton called the morning “quiet” at the station.
“We wanted everybody to be safe,” Patrick said with a smile.
Despite the influx of visitors, needs remained low at Mosaic Life Care, according to Brady Dubois, medical center president. The hospital prepared for the event throughout the last year, planning for additional personnel and equipment and increasing locations for patient care, much of which wasn’t utilized, Dubois said.
“We were very fortunate for the whole community that today’s been extremely light, abnormally light volumes both ER and main hospital,” Dubois said. “Very atypical Monday.”
The hospital did not use the care tent and mobile unit stationed in its parking lot. The Mosaic urgent care facility, located on North Belt Highway, also had limited utilization, Dubois said.
“This is one of those things that you plan for the worst-case scenario. You obviously hope for the best,” he said. “Certainly, our best-case scenario is that patients don’t need emergent medical care. We are very thankful that today ended up being as nice as it was.”