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First responders review procedures after deadly fire

Local first responders are reviewing their emergency plans after a deadly fire this weekend.

When the all-call came in for first responders to go to a Hannibal high-rise, that triggered an action plan that affected more than just the emergency crews that were at this incident.

“We couldn’t have been more pleased with the collaboration between agencies and how everything went Saturday,” said Marion County Ambulance District Chief John Nemes.

That’s how first responders describe the way they handled Saturday’s deadly fire at the Hannibal Housing Authority Hi-Rise Laura Hawkins Hall.

Even so, they are reviewing their procedures for what they call ‘mass casualty events’.

“One of our initial challenges was sorting out who needed medical treatment and who didn’t,” said Division Chief Eric Murfin.

Marion County Ambulance District Officials said all of their vehicles and all of Ralls County Ambulance District’s vehicles were at the scene within minutes.

“We had nine ambulances from Marion and Ralls County within about 27 minutes of the dispatch. With that, we also sent out a mutual aid request. Lewis County came and they covered the northern area of our district for us while we had all of our units tied up in Hannibal,” said Nemes.

Meanwhile, the Hannibal Fire Department is also reviewing how it handled the blaze.

Officials there said at the time of the fire, they were at minimum staff with 8 firefighters on duty but thanks to technology, dozens of off duty firefighters were called in immediately.

“A 911 dispatcher can literally send out a push notification to everyone’s cell phone and it will say hey, we have a call in. This is what it is, come to the scene,” said Mark Kempker with the Hannibal Fire Department.

Fire officials also said they took lessons from the attacks on September 11th in order to make communication much easier.

“To use our radios and the communication channels that we had using our tactical channels that way the incident command could be unified. They could be situated and be able to talk to 9-1-1 for any other incoming calls and information,” said Kempker.

Both ambulance and fire officials said  their departments will spend the next several days reviewing the procedures they followed on Saturday to see what they did right and where they can improve.

Hannibal fire officials said though they have gone through extensive training, no current firefighter has been involved in large scale event like Saturday’s.

Brett Knese

Multi-Media Journalist at WGEM News.

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