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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Imagine this situation.
It is Christmas Eve, and someone in your family is experiencing a medical emergency.
You call 911, confident that the Colfax Rescue Squad will soon be there to transport your loved one to a hospital.
The Colfax ambulance arrives.
You breathe a sigh of relief.
Although it feels like hours since you called for the ambulance, you realize it has really only been minutes.
The EMTs carefully load your loved one into the ambulance. And then they are ready to leave for the hospital.
Except — there is no place for the ambulance to turn around at your house, which is located at the top of a hill.
So, the ambulance driver starts backing down the driveway.
All is well until the ambulance reaches the curve in the driveway, and then, because your driveway is icy, the ambulance begins to slide, goes off the curve, and is stuck against a tree.
Now what? How is your loved one going to get to the hospital?
An ambulance is called from Menomonie.
The Menomonie ambulance finally arrives, and your loved one is transferred from the Colfax ambulance, which is still jammed against a tree, and loaded into the Menomonie ambulance.
At last, your loved one is on the way to receive hospital care.
But what about the Colfax ambulance?
As it turns out, it takes a wrecker three hours to pull the ambulance out because — the wrecker is sliding on the ice, too.
Now, imagine this situation.
How many readers have had to back up a vehicle at night in the dark?
What about on a driveway that is so narrow, you had to pull the mirrors in on your vehicle to avoid ripping them off on the trees lining the driveway?
The Colfax Rescue Squad was called out to another medical emergency at the end of November in just such a situation.
The driveway curved through trees to reach the house.
When the ambulance was ready to leave, there was no place to turn around because of the number of vehicles parked at the house.
The ambulance driver had no choice but to pull the mirrors in on the ambulance and then try to navigate the narrow driveway back out to the road.
Both of these situations are true stories related by Don Knutson, director of the Colfax Rescue Squad, in his written year-end report to the Colfax Village Board at the January 11 meeting.
Knutson said he was sharing the information with the village board for two reasons: “1.) Our customers need to realize they (must) maintain driveways in the wintertime or else emergency vehicles may not be able to reach them. 2.) Ambulances and fire trucks are bigger than cars, so we need wider, higher driveways in order reach the emergencies.”
Knutson asked that all of the municipalities served by the Colfax Rescue Squad remind residents to maintain their driveways with salt/sand in the winter and to make sure their driveways have enough clearance for emergency vehicles.
The Colfax Rescue Squad provides service to the Villages of Colfax, Elk Mound and Wheeler and the Towns of Colfax, Elk Mound, Grant, Otter Creek, Sand Creek and Tainter.
The National Fire Protection Association has established minimum standards for driveways, which Knutson included in his report:
• Single family residence with a driveway grade of 0 to 12 percent — driveways that are 150 to 200 feet long must be 12 feet wide with an unobstructed height of 13 feet and six inches with a turnaround. Driveways longer than 200 feet must be 12 feet wide with two feet of clearance on each side and an unobstructed height of 13 feet and six inches with a turnaround.
• Single family residence with a driveway grade of 12.1 percent to 15 percent — Driveways 150 to 200 feet must be 12 feet wide with two feet of clearance on both sides with an unobstructed height of 13 feet and six inches. Driveways longer than 200 feet must be 14 feet wide with two feet of clearance on both sides and unobstructed height of 13 feet and six inches.
• Single family residence with a driveway grade of 15.1 percent to 18 percent — Driveways 150 to 200 feet long must be 12 feet wide with two feet of clearance on both sides and 13 feet and six inches of unobstructed height with a turnaround. Driveways more than 200 feet long must be 14 feet wide with two feet of clearance on each side and 13 feet and six inches of unobstructed height with a turnaround.
• NFPA recommends the turnaround be 45 feet in diameter and as flat as possible.
• NFPA recommends the driveway be compacted to 95 percent and able to support 75,000 pounds of gross vehicle weight under any weather conditions.
Knutson noted in his report it is especially important for homeowners with driveways that have a steeper grade to keep their driveways treated with sand and salt.
Knutson also provided information on COVID-19 in his report.
While the Colfax Rescue Squad has had a near record number of calls in 2020, the number of calls has been accomplished with the smallest staff in the last 15 to 20 years.
Because hospitals have been at capacity, or near capacity, due to COVID-19 infections, patients have been diverted to hospitals with staff and beds available or have been taken to hospitals where they know the patient will be transferred outside of the region when the patient is stabilized.
“As the end of COVID may be near (late summer or early fall, hopefully), we can maybe start concentrating on recruitment. Not to say we have not been recruiting, but it has just been harder with no in-person classes and some shying away from EMS for safety reasons,” Knutson wrote.
EMS has been stressed on a national level as well with COVID responses and fewer employees, he noted.
At the time Knutson was writing his report, EMS in California were being told to reserve oxygen administration to those patients who have an oxygen saturation below 90 percent and not to transport patients who have a low chance of survival.
“This is being done because resources are running low. Oxygen is in high demand as well as hospital beds and hospital staff. Some states are offering free tuition to people entering the nursing field because of demand,” Knutson said.
Locally, the Colfax Rescue Squad has stopped administering nitrous oxide for pain because it is an aerosolized procedure. CRS also is performing CPAP/BiPAP only for patients in severe respiratory distress because of the aerosolized particles, he said.
The SARS-Co-V2 virus is spread primarily through respiratory droplets, and any procedure that produces aerosolized respiratory droplets is especially risky for health care providers.
The Colfax Rescue Squad also is using filters on equipment, and EMTs are wearing more personal protective equipment on all calls, Knutson said.
Starting the week of the village board meeting, CRS staff will be able to get the vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, Knutson wrote.
The designated vaccine sites are Prevea Hospital of HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s Hospital, he said.
“I have approximately 75 percent of my staff willing to be vaccinated which is wonderful. My first dose is tomorrow followed by a second one in 21 days. Does this mean we stop our PPE? The answer is NO — not until the COVID numbers are almost zero or 90 percent of the population is vaccinated,” Knutson wrote.
In other business, the Colfax Village Board:
• Approved an amendment to the agreement designating the Village of Colfax as the responsible unit for recycling. The amendment is a clarification on the equipment acquisition costs at the collection facilities. The Colfax group (Village of Colfax and the Towns of Colfax, Grant, Otter Creek, Tainter and Wilson) and the Elk Mound group (Village of Elk Mound and the Towns of Elk Mound and Spring Brook) will share the cost equally for equipment acquisition costs for the Colfax site and the Elk Mound site.
• Approved a designation determined by the Dunn County Farm Service Agency that 4.64 acres in the Village of Colfax previously designated as farmland are now no longer cropland and are all residential.