ETMC dispatch center helps respond to explosion victims in West

ETMC EMS Communications Center in Tyler
ETMC EMS Communications Center in Tyler

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Just moments after the explosion at the fertilizer plant in West on Wednesday, ETMC dispatchers in Tyler were sending ambulances to the scene.

ETMC received a call for help from West EMS shortly after 7:45 p.m. Thirteen minutes later, the first of fifteen ETMC ambulances arrived.

ETMC also had up to four dispatchers at a time dedicated only to coordinating emergency response in West. During the chaos, the dispatchers were able to respond to and transport over 100 of the injured, all from their communications center in Tyler.

"Because of the resources we have in the Waco area already, we were ready to go for events like this," said ETMC EMS Communications Manager Chad Richey. "We train for mass casualties in all forms, whether that's explosions such as this, downed aircraft, school shootings, or school bus wrecks."

On a typical day, the ETMC EMS communication center in Tyler coordinates 72 ambulances and 400 emergency responses across 17,000 square miles of Texas. Last night, they sent 15 of their ambulances to West.

But Richey said it was just another day for the dispatchers.

"ETMC EMS has done this for so long, it just really is second nature," Richey said. "There's no real difficulty in coordinating the events from here. In my opinion, it almost helps because we're not right there in that community, so we kind of have a different point of view: I've got a job to do, people need help, let's send them help."

ETMC says they are currently the primary responding units for any emergency in West. They also still have one dispatcher dedicated only to calls from the area.