EMS dispatch: West explosion has been vital real life training - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

EMS dispatch: West explosion has been vital real life training

Travis Barnett says the explosion in West was the largest emergency he has worked (Source: KLTV Staff) Travis Barnett says the explosion in West was the largest emergency he has worked (Source: KLTV Staff)
ETMC EMS communication center in Tyler (Source: KLTV Staff) ETMC EMS communication center in Tyler (Source: KLTV Staff)
TYLER, TX (KLTV) - April 17, 2014 marks one year since a fertilizer plant exploded in the town of West. The blast killed fifteen people and displaced nearly 3,000 residents. A call for help was made to the East Texas Medical Center EMS communication center in Tyler just moments after the explosion. After that first call came in, six ambulances from the local EMS fleet were sent to West. The tragedy has continued to be a vital learning experience for dispatchers who also work behind the scenes as first responders.

A year ago just before 8 p.m. dispatchers in Tyler responded to emergency calls made from more than 100 miles away. Travis Barnett was working the graveyard shift that night. He began ETMC's mass casualty protocol to coordinate helicopters, additional crews and ambulances to take action.

"Everybody who's in emergency services kind of prepares for the worst, you know, prepares for things like this. Hopefully they don't happen but we train," Barnett said.

As a communications training officer, Barnett is teaching EMS controllers how to react calmly and effectively.

"We sit in here and we deal with emergencies everyday and we think ok is something like that going to happen again? How am I going to react this time you know? Have I learned enough from it to be able to provide better assistance in a situation like that?" Barnett said.

Barnett is also a volunteer firefighter who says his experiences out in the field and as a dispatcher the day of the explosion have prepared him for his training job.

"I was involved in a situation where some firemen lost their lives in an incident and so I think that experience also helps prepare me for this incident to be able to deal with it on a professional and personal basis to be able to assist other people on how to get through the situation," Barnett said.

Dispatchers who worked that night say the west explosion is the largest emergency they have ever worked.

Copyright 2014 KLTV. All rights reserved.
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