If two people had back-to-back heart attacks in rural Warren County, the first emergency responders on the scene would need fast and effective communication with the nearest medical transport – and that’s just for starters.
That was a real-life scenario last year, when two men on Davis Island off the Mississippi River in south Warren County had life-threatening episodes two hours apart. The isolated island, used primarily by hunters, isn’t accessible by ambulance.
The first responders reached out to Mississippi MED-COM, the statewide emergency communications center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. Damon Darsey, an emergency medicine physician and medical director for UMMC’s Mississippi Center for Emergency Services, contacted John Elfer, Warren County’s emergency management director.
“It was less than 45 minutes from the time of the call to the helicopter landing,” Elfer said of UMMC’s AirCare medical helicopter transport. “More than likely, had we not been able to communicate and get them transported by air, one or more wouldn’t have survived.”
In that emergency, the infrastructure was in place for good cell phone and radio communication. But in the state’s farthest corners, quick and seamless emergency communications and preparedness isn’t a given.
“You go up into the Delta and the less fortunate rural areas, and some of these smaller counties simply don’t have the funds for coverage,” said Elfer, whose county has five cell towers and benefits from upgraded radios in emergency management.