‘A career event’: Traffic incident management in 130-vehicle pileup

Breaking down police, fire rescue, EMS roles in a traffic incident management system


Last week, public safety response to an MCI in Fort Worth, Texas, was put fully to the test after a crash involving more than 130 vehicles occurred after a night of freezing rain on I-35W. Reports identified that six people were killed, and dozens injured among the wreckage, which included 18 wheelers as well as some public safety vehicles.

The emergency crews, responding from MedStar, Fort Worth, identified patients who had died on the scene and had to clear all vehicles in and amongst the-mile-long pile-up. Medstar’s Chief Strategic Integration Officer, Matt Zavadsky, MS-HSA, EMT, reported they had transported at least 36 people to the hospital, with patients suffering serious and critical injuries. He also noted that crews continued to find new victims as they went from car to car as well as rounding up victims who had walked off the site to take shelter at a local 7-Eleven. In the final tally, 30 MedStar units responded to the scene, a police-run reunification center was established and the city stood up an emergency operations center.

Incidents such as this are clearly tragic and possibly avoidable, as Zavadsky told news reporters in a segment that was syndicated and traveled the globe; “For many of us, this is a career event, many of us have been in this profession for a very long time, we train for this kind of scenario, but you never really expect it to happen.”

Against the backdrop of this tragic event and the sobering fact that NHTSA reported a statistical projection that an estimated 28,000 would have died in motor vehicle crashes in the first 9 months of 2020, it is worth looking at traffic incident management.

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