CAMP ROBINSON, Ark. (ANG) - In the aftermath of a winter storm that blanketed most of Arkansas, the Arkansas National Guard is again answering the call to provide specialized equipment and skills to support local communities.
The Guard remains ready to respond when an emergency strikes.
The Arkansas National Guard placed 64 Guardsmen on state active duty to pre-stage and prepare equipment Thursday, for what was predicted to be one of the most severe winter storms in recent years. Friday brought falling temperatures and rising accumulations of snow, sleet and freezing rain to many areas. By mid-day the anticipated calls for assistance began coming in to the Arkansas National Guard's Joint Operations Center from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.
One request called for transportation support for local ambulance services and fire departments utilizing the Guard's fleet of Field Litter Ambulances (FLA), an all terrain vehicle. The Guard dispatched two ambulances and crews to assist Little Rock's Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services (MEMS), two to the City of Jacksonville Fire Department and two to assist the City of Conway.
Jacksonville Fire Chief, Alan Laughy, said he greatly appreciates the Guard's assistance because without the all terrain capability provided by the Guard his paramedics would not be able to reach some locations in the city.
"We're very glad to have the Guard to help out when the weather gets like this. It ensures we can continue to provide medical rescue and transport to all locations across the city, and in our business being able to reach a patient in a timely fashion can be critical," said Laughy.
With just over an inch of sleet covering the Jacksonville streets the alarm rang just after 4 p.m. with paramedics needed at a neighborhood location on a steep hill on the south side of the city.
Pfc. Andrew King and Sgt. Sherri Gates, both of Conway with the Arkansas National Guard's 213th Area Support Medical Company based in North Little Rock, dashed out of Jacksonville's Central Fire Station and started the FLA, while Jacksonville paramedic Andy Bates and EMT Jonathon Thompson lead the way with lights and siren from their Jacksonville Ambulance. This was the first call of the day for the Guard to assist the firemen.
"We have chains for the ambulance," said Bates. "But if the streets aren't completely iced over the chains can break and do more damage to the vehicle than good. Some locations in the city are very hilly, so we use the Guard ambulance to bring the patient down to where we can stage the big ambulance and transfer the patient to take them on to the hospital."
This isn't the first time for the Jacksonville firemen to work with the Guard. "We used them quite a bit last year. It got real busy with the big snow storm that hit on Christmas last year and dumped about 10 inches of snow," said Bates.
Sgt. Gates had experience with that snow storm as well, having worked numerous missions with the FLA supporting the City of Greenbrier. "We ran quite a few missions last year in the snow because the area around Greenbrier is pretty rural, hilly and the roads don't get cleared like in town," said Gates.
Currently, the Arkansas National Guard has supported missions across the state to include: providing transportation for stranded citizens, delivering blankets and cots to warming centers and other emergency services. Over 90 Guardsmen are on state active duty and numerous more have been placed on standby to respond in the event a fellow Arkansan is in need.
(Source: Arkansas National Guard)