At its regular monthly luncheon on January 11, the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce honored Cypress Creek EMS for its life-saving efforts during last year’s flooding due to Hurricane Harvey. The Harvey Hero award was presented to 2018 CCEMS Board President Ruben Gonzales, by Chamber President Barbara Thomason and 2018 Chamber Board Chair Tim Puthoff who is the Chief Executive Officer of Houston Northwest Medical Center.
A representative group of CCEMS employees who worked during the storm were in attendance and were recgonized by the members of the chamber. The group represented field staff, communications center personnel, and the leaders who manned the CCEMS Emergency Operations center around the clock during and after the storm.
The represenativies in attendance were (L to R) Norm Uhl, Public Information Officer; Brandon Cano, EMT; David Billings, CCEMS Board Member; Lynne Singleon, Paramedic; Robert Martin, EMT; Samuel Kordik, Senior Clinical Supervisor; Juan Rodriguez, Communications Training Coordinator; Lori Broadrick, Senior Communication Supervisor; Christine Mangum, Dispatcher; Ruben Gonzales, CCEMS Board President; Wren Nealy, Special Operations Director.
Also in attendance were ESD 11 Commissioners Karen Plummer, Fred Grundmeyer, Josh Fetner, and Tommy Ripley.
During Hurricane Harvey and the flooding it caused, the Cypress Creek Communications Center answered more than 12,000 calls between August 25 to August 31, representing more than 5400 actual incidents, the majority of which were water rescue calls.
The Comm Center handles 9-1-1 and dispatch for a total of 16 emergency agencies including fire departments along Cypress Creek and Spring Creek in North Harris County, two departments in the Katy Area, one in the Mission Bend area of SW Harris County and Pearland Fire and EMS.
At first, those departments had more calls that they had boats but after a call for civilian help from Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, people with boats began showing up in the CCEMS parking lot and other staging areas ready to go to work.
With the help of the Fire Desk and Harris County Sheriff’s Deputies in our Emergency Operations Center we paired up civilian boats with the departments who needed them until all the water rescue calls had been answered.
The total number of incidents was 5,426. During the same period one week earlier the total for all the agencies was 1834. That’s a 196% increase. There were multiple calls from different people on the some of the same incidents, so at one point the number of calls registered a 614% increase over normal call volume.
Plus, fire departments received direct requests for help. Once they entered a neighborhood to respond to a call, many others requested evacuation, too. So, the following numbers don’t represent ALL of the water rescues, just the ones that came in by telephone to the Comm Center. For example, we had 387 calls for ESD 48, but the fire department documented more than 1500 rescues.
Here’s a look, by agency, at the number of calls.
It was an extremely busy week for the call takers, dispatchers, and supervisors in the Comm Center and the Senior Supervisors in our (EOC) Emergency Operations Center. Call takers, dispatchers, and their supervisors worked, slept and ate at the Comm Center until the call volume dropped back into the normal range.
Classrooms in the CCEMS Education Center were turned into dorm rooms with cots for extra ambulance crews.
Although most of the 9-1-1 calls were for water rescue, there was also an elevated number of calls for ambulances. The calls included chest pains, cardiac arrests, and babies who weren’t going to wait for the water to go down to be born.
The EOC created an online map of impassible areas and helped route ambulances around high water to get to patients AND to get patients to hospitals. At one point only the northbound lanes of 45 were open to take patients to the trauma center at Memorial Hermann Woodlands, so we had to use a police escort and go the wrong way on I-45 with lights and sirens to return to our territory.
CCEMS scouts were sent out frequently to report back on what areas were still impassable and what areas were not and we constantly compared notes with law enforcement on road conditions.
After the storm, when the cleanup began there was still an elevated number of medical calls from CCEMS due to injuries from nails, tools, broken glass and the like.
For its tremendous work during Harvey, the CCEMS Communcations Center was presented with the “Telecommunicator” of the Year at the Annual State EMS Conference in November.
2017 was a record-breaking year for Cypress Creek EMS and the CCEMS Communications Center. Cypress Creek EMS set a new record for ambulance calls of 44,202 and December saw the highest volume in the history with CCEMS ambulance crews going to 4,017 emergency calls.
The Communications Center, which handles 9-1-1 and dispatch for Cypress Creek EMS, also handles calls for 16 other emergency agencies. The Comm Center set a new record in 2017 of 90,873 calls. That’s an increase over 2016 of 17,538 or 24 percent.
Although, the Comm Center answered a huge number of calls for area fire departments and EMS during Hurricane Harvey, it only accounts for a small portion of the 2017 increase. Harvey represented 5,426 incidents so if you take that away from the total, you still have an increase of 12,112.