- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Ambulances responding to emergencies were among the many vehicles stuck on area roads after the weekend storm that dumped between 16 inches and 2 feet of snow.
Alan Etter, the District's fire and EMS spokesman, said yesterday that he knew of six such incidents, including a critical call Sunday in which an ambulance was transporting a woman with breathing problems.
Mr. Etter said the department's heavy-rescue squad towed the ambulance and that the woman was transported to a hospital.
He also said the D.C. National Guard assigned two Humvees to the department, one to a station in Northwest and another to a station in Southeast, to help tow other ambulances.
In some cases, Mr. Etter said, ambulance crews responding to medical calls were forced to park their vehicles blocks away instead of venture down hills onto unplowed neighborhood streets.
"If there's a definite possibility that you might get stuck, these EMS crews have to lug their equipment to the emergency," Mr. Etter said. "If they get stuck, that's only going to increase the amount of time it takes to get to the hospital."
However, Mr. Etter said, he was not aware of incidents in which a critical call was significantly delayed because crews were not able to reach a patient because of the snow.
Pete Piringer, spokesman for Montgomery County's fire and rescue department, reported a similar situation.
He said the county assigned 14 plows to the department to keep fire station entrances clear and to help emergency vehicles plow their way into neighborhoods.
"Most of our calls have been in neighborhoods and side streets," Mr. Piringer said.
He said that as a result rescue vehicles had trouble in just about every case.
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Capt. Dennis Michaliga said rescue vehicles have chains attached to their tires, but that they were breaking "like crazy" because of the large number of calls.
"Response times are obviously going to be extended because of this," he said. "It's been, in a word, crazy."
Capt. Michaliga said the department used all its four-wheel-drive vehicles, in part to transport dialysis patients who needed to keep appointments. He said about 30 such patients were transported yesterday.
In Prince George's County, fire and rescue spokesman Chauncey Bowers said emergency vehicles could radio a county plow if there was an urgent need to reach an unplowed neighborhood, but that so far there had been "no significant issues with response related to the snow."

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