Emergency response to Eldon, Jefferson City tornado had oversight by regional ambulance district director

Neal Johnson, Unterrified Democrat and Republican Staff
Posted 5/29/19

Osage Ambulance District Administrator Josh Krull was notified of the tornado that touched down in Eldon at about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday and knew he would be in for a long stretch, since he serves as …

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Emergency response to Eldon, Jefferson City tornado had oversight by regional ambulance district director

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Osage Ambulance District Administrator Josh Krull was notified of the tornado that touched down in Eldon at about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday and knew he would be in for a long stretch, since he serves as the EMS mutual aid coordinator for Region F.

“My role in this situation was to serve as liaison between local agencies in need and EMS assets within the region,” said Krull. 

At the time the tornado touched down, Krull said the Miller County Director of EMS Operations was returning from a run to Columbia, and his ambulance was traveling along Highway 54, into the storm’s path. 

“He had to seek shelter along the way and that slowed things down for him, but we were communicating, so I was able to get resources in place as he made his way to Eldon,” said Krull, noting there was a request for five ambulance crews to be sent to the regional airport at Eldon.

Krull issued an “All Call” to OAD crews, who staged at Base 1 in Linn to support whatever needs arose.

“Within minutes we had crew members at the base, and we very quickly sent an ambulance to Eldon,” said Krull. “As additional crew members arrived at base, a second crew was dispatched, and I was on my way as well.”

At the same time, Krull arranged for other ambulance crews in Region F to make their way to Eldon, where it was initially thought that a nursing home had collapsed. 

“We had limited information at that time due to poor communication caused by the storm, and the EMS director was still trying to get there,” said Krull. “When reports of the nursing home being hit and possibly collapsed, he requested 15 more ambulances, and I reported the needs to the state.”

Then the unthinkable occurred as Krull got a report saying a tornado had struck Jefferson City around midnight. He was still en route to Eldon at the time, and called the Cole County EMS battalion chief.

“The tornado was just leaving the city, and they were still assessing damage,” Krull said, noting he dispatched two OAD crews to assist Cole County EMS, and additional units were called in from other Region F agencies, in addition to Region A, which includes Pettis, Saline and Johnson counties, immediately to the west.

“I want everyone to understand that we provided crews to this emergency but we didn’t leave our district unattended,” said Krull.

Krull explained that while four crews were helping with the tornado, there were two OAD crews in district, and another truck that was being prepped just in case. “We had a lot of people at Base 1 wanting to help,” said Krull. “We were as prepared as we could be for this emergency and I’m very impressed with the response of our crew members.”

In the event there was an emergency situation in Osage County, Krull said mutual aid from other agencies would have provided whatever help was required. “That’s the way this system works,” he said. “You commit resources to help others, knowing that if you need help, other agencies have your back.”

As Krull went through Jefferson City on his way to Eldon, he said the damage was incredible, and he said most scenes had some type of emergency personnel in place. 

“Mostly it was law enforcement, they were on the scene doing what they could,” said Krull. “We checked for injuries on our way through, and then headed toward the nursing home in Eldon.”

Once at the command post in Miller County, Krull learned that the nursing home had not collapsed, and there were only minimal injuries. “Thankfully. It was not as bad as I thought it was going to be,” he said.

From the original request of 20 ambulances, the number was reduced to 10, including the two crews provided by OAD.

“The best part was seeing 10 ambulances lined up on the street, ready to go wherever they were needed,” Krull said. “Borders didn’t matter. It didn’t make a difference where you were from. All that mattered was that everyone had joined to make sure people got medical treatment.”

Krull was asked to handle staging and dispatching of calls for service after they came in to the command post, and ambulance crews went out in a rotation. “They would get an address, punch it into the GPS, and take off,” he said.

Fire department personnel checked the affected areas in the path of the storm for trapped individuals and for anyone hurt.

As calls slowed down in Eldon, ambulances were diverted to Jefferson City to help Cole County EMS crews there.

Finally, at 4:30 a.m., Krull said Miller County EMS crews were in control of the local situation and released all mutual aid crews. The two from OAD returned to Osage County, while Krull responded to the Cole County EMS command post.

He coordinated the mutual aid aspect of the situation, directing crews from within the region to replace the original crews that were getting very tired along with the local EMS crews that handled a majority of the calls who also needed rest. There were 19 storm-related calls reported by Cole County EMS, Krull said, and 16 storm-related transports in that county.

“By that time, crews were very tired, and we began switching them out,” said Krull, noting that 10 fresh crews replaced their counterparts shortly after daybreak.

At that time, the two crews that had been assisting Cole County were released and a fresh crew responded to work the day shift.  

“The mutual-aid ambulance crews were utilized to assist with search and rescue operations, post at various locations around the county to improve coverage, assist with hospital transfers and be available in the event the emergency call load became heavy. Everyone was there to support Cole County EMS in any way they needed,” said Krull.

By late afternoon on Thursday, Cole County EMS crews were able to take over, mutual-aid units were released, except for one ambulance to assist overnight, and one to help with overflow calls at the shelter. A separate crew from OAD went up, along with one from Ozark Central out of Belle, which had provided a crew for the Eldon effort as well.

Krull was released Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

“The response was impressive,” he said. “I am pleased with the way everyone stepped up and helped out. You never want to see this situation, but if it happens, it’s reassuring to know that dedicated EMS professionals are in place to handle it.”

Ambulance crews from Hermann and Owensville also responded to help in the emergency.

Krull has served as the Region F EMS Mutual Aid Coordinator since 2014. The mutual aid system was developed after the 2011 Joplin tornado.

Krull worked previously in Owensville on the ambulance crew and has been a reserve sheriff’s deputy for Gasconade County and deputy marshal in Rosebud. He is from the Swiss community.

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