Responding to a situation like the I-78 crash is nothing anyone can be ready for. That’s why first responders at Lebanon Emergency Management Agency have plans in place so they can deal with any type of crisis the best they can.
“You just have to remember you need to get help there and remain calm, and just remember your basic steps,” Jeremy Leffler, shift supervisor at LEMA, said.
But no one could have prepared him for the calls that came in Saturday.
“We just kept dealing with incoming phone calls and incoming phone calls. We knew it was the real deal,” Leffler said.
People trapped inside cars, slamming into each other. Victims crying. Chaos.
“Sometimes people exaggerate. They’re emotional, they’re quite upset, so they exaggerate the numbers a little bit. But then when a bunch of callers say the same thing. you start to believe it,” Leffler said.
LEMA was bombarded by calls. EMS was constantly requesting help in the field. 73 people were transported to hospitals. Surrounding counties pumping 30 agencies to help out.
“Everyday is the unknown for these people,” Eric Fahler, LEMA communications supervisor, said. “Dispatchers are trained to deal with almost every kind of scenario. But every scenario is different. And yesterday it was just a lot of skill, a lot of experience that fit into a very very good outcome.”
Understanding distance is a must. They are calculating response times and coordinating from behind the screen. But the biggest obstacle on any day is the unknown.
“You’re never going to be prepared until you fully get there and see what you have and without those first responders out there yesterday, we couldn’t have done it without them either,” Fahler said.
If you call 911, dispatchers ask you stay on the phone, even if it’s still ringing. Otherwise they have to call you back until they get an answer because they treat every call like an emergency.