Ambulances ‘well equipped’ to avoid construction

6-12-13-metro ambulance
Christopher Pfingsten with Metro West Ambulance talks to KOIN 6 News about the tools emergency responders have available to work around road construction when responding to a dispatch call. (KOIN 6 News)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — On Tuesday afternoon a 1-year-old girl died after being taken off life support, less than a week after an ambulance was delayed by road construction near the family’s northeast Vancouver home.

The Wormer family said city road construction — on NE 138th Avenue — delayed an ambulance last Wednesday when little Delylah Wormer needed immediate medical attention. Delylah suffered from a terminal illness and on Wednesday turned blue and became unresponsive, her mother said.

Delylah’s parents don’t know if that delay was deadly. However, as her father told KOIN 6 News Monday, “If you’re in a medical situation when you’re in cardiac arrest, every second counts.”

As municipalities get into the summer construction season, KOIN 6 News looks into how emergency responders are expected to deal with these situations. Emergency responders do get road construction updates from agencies, including a state’s Department of Transportation. Dispatchers and crews both have GPS capabilities, and are in constant communications.

First-responders say they do try to anticipate problems before they happen. But, in this case, the construction was going on near their home at NE 137th Avenue and NE 39th Street and a sound wall — not showing up on GPS — had been set up. That barrier blocked the ambulance’s first attempt to get to the Wormers’ house on Northeast 137th Avenue.

A friend of the Wormers eventually flagged down the lost emergency vehicle, and directed it to the family’s home. Once the ambulance arrived, a construction vehicle blocked its way out.

Metro West Ambulance, which was not the responder in the Wormer case, responded to KOIN 6 News’ inquiries on first-responder communications related to road construction.

“We’re very well apt to handle these,” said Christopher Pfingsten with Metro West Ambulance. “We have everything from … the GPS system and dispatch — constant communications between our crews. So people can rest assured that even if there is construction, we’re very well equipped to get around construction.”

He said when construction obstructs one of Metro West’s access roads, crews are “always accommodating” in letting emergency vehicles through. Vancouver Public Works officials told KOIN 6 News they are looking into the circumstances of what happened last week.

“The best thing we can do is communicate with our dispatch [to] show us a live map, where all the ambulances are,” Pfingsten said. “And they can help us route around the quickest way to avoid the hassle in the first place.”

Delylah’s family says her usable organs have been donated to help others.

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