Fort Worth’s Emergency Medical Service provider MedStar reported record demand for service at the 911 call center Tuesday.
“The volume that we’re seeing right now is unprecedented. We’ve never had this volume of 911 calls before,” said MedStar Chief Transformation Officer Matt Zavadsky.
All 41 MedStar ambulances were constantly busy Tuesday with calls for service stacked up.
The combination of cold weather, traffic problems and widespread power outages all at once exceeded expectations.
“Those three combined are a trifecta which has really overtaxed the entire emergency system,” Zavadsky said.
Many of the calls Monday were from people who normally rely on home power for oxygen concentrators to help with breathing. Paramedics responded by delivering oxygen to those homes but could not continue that practice.
To help relieve the burden on ambulances Fort Worth opened an emergency shelter at the convention center and three warming stations around the city with heat and electricity.
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The Convention Center is open all night. The warming center hours were 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Call takers were constantly busy, too.
Supervisor Leslie Elam said the call center added staff in anticipation of higher demand, but it was not enough.
“We didn't anticipate this electricity problem at all. We were thinking it was going to be more roads,” she said.
Like so many of the callers, staff at MedStar also encountered problems from the lack of power.
Elam stayed at the office since Sunday instead of risking an accident on the road.
“I had a hotel reservation across the street and another one down the road and they're out, they have no power, either. So, it's really kind of frustrating on us all,” she said.
Dallas officials said demand for EMS service was also extremely high there, but they could not confirm whether it was a record Tuesday.
The emergency people encouraged residents with true medical emergencies to continue calling 911 but warned that some responses may require patience. The most urgent calls will be answered first.