Fire chief tells of little known preps before winter storm

Updated: Mar. 27, 2021 at 5:50 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The winter storm that hit Texas created many problems, among them, how quickly fire and police vehicles could respond to emergencies.

Many residents of Longview never knew the extraordinary steps the city’s fire chief took during the event.

Days before the massive snowstorm hit Longview, fire chief ‘J.P. Steelman’ had made preparations by fitting tire chains on all his fire and ambulance units. Hoping it would be enough.

“Okay, are we prepared to handle an event of this magnitude for the duration that we have in front of us,” he reflected.

With other ambulance services out of action because of the ice covered roads, Steelman knew patients desperately needed treatment, and had to be transported to treatment somehow.

“A patient in cardiac arrest is now going to have to wait 10, 12, 15 minutes. And that’s unacceptable,” the chief said.

His units transported dialysis patients to treatment.

The chief was anticipating that the ice covered roadways would seriously hamper response times in any emergency. He had to find a way to quickly respond to an emergency situation.

“That response time it takes to get to that patients side or to get to that burning building, that’s time you can’t afford to lose right. One of the things we did was put additional EMS units in service,” he says.

Steelman spread those units strategically around the city to respond to specific areas.

“Everything we do in the emergency response world is factored around time. It’s all about what does it take to delivery that emergency response package,” Steelman said.

Though residents worried about frozen pipes or power outages, Steelman made sure emergency response would not be one of their worries.

“Everybody stepped up and did a tremendous job. Couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” he says.

Chief Steelman says the plan used during the snowstorm will be the blueprint for planning any future anticipated weather emergencies.

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