The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Top Stories

May 11, 2012

METS celebrates 30 years of service

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin’s Metro Emergency Transport System will mark its 30th anniversary later this month — nearly one year after the most challenging event in its history.

When the May 22 tornado struck, METS had six ambulances on duty, but within 30 minutes, three others were deployed, said Jason Smith, director of emergency medical services for METS. Newton County Ambulance Service responded with 11 ambulances within the first 30 minutes, meaning there were 20 ambulances in the disaster zone within the hour.

That was not enough.

Smith said that when an ambulance would arrive in a neighborhood, people would swarm around it and attempt to get their injured family members and friends on board.

“In about the first two hours, we probably transported about 250 patients,” Smith said.

Ambulance officials quickly realized they needed to change their strategy.

“Once we realized how big the event actually was, we stopped transporting and we set up treatment areas all across the affected area,” Smith said. “And basically we would just have people come to us. People would come to those treatment areas. We would stabilize them — treat them the best we could. People were using private cars and pickups to actually transport people to the hospital. We were able to do a lot better triage.”

He said they treated dozens of people with debris imbedded in their bodies or with amputated limbs.

“The job that they did, they deserve so much credit and recognition,” Smith said of his crews.

Darrell Donham, operations manager, has been with METS since 2004. He was in his pickup returning from a fire call when he heard someone on the radio reporting a tornado on the ground at 20th Street and Maiden Lane. He started in that direction, and soon encountered people standing in the middle of the road. He checked to see if they were OK.

“While I was sitting in my pickup at 20th Street, I was sending out an ‘all call’ page from my laptop in my truck — everybody needs to come in.”

He turned his attention to developing a plan and coordinating crews.

One crew

Among the crews on duty on May 22 were partners Alexis Jeffers and Amanda Cox. Jeffers has been with METS for about 3 1/2 years and Cox has been with the company about three years. They had both worked together in the emergency room at Freeman Health System.

Jeffers said she had no idea bad weather was approaching, but Cox said she had caught some forecasts.

“I had heard that there was going to be thunderstorms that day,” she said. “I don’t know if they said tornadoes or not. I remember thunderstorms and hail and I think that’s why I brought the fire helmets.”

The helmets proved useful as hail pummeled them after the tornado.

They said that when they heard Donham on the radio, they headed to Main Street between 17th and 18th streets.

“We got out and started helping people,” Jeffers said. “It was hailing and pouring on us.”

They had eight people in their ambulance on their first trip to Freeman Hospital West. It took 20 minutes to get there, after they found a route that bypassed debris.

They estimated they transported 50 people to the hospital that night, with at least two or three patients on the ambulance for each trip.

After their first trip to Freeman, they were directed to the Greenbriar Nursing Home near 26th Street and Moffett Avenue, where the search was continuing for survivors. More than 16 people at the nursing home died that night.

Cox still hadn’t heard from her husband, a Joplin firefighter and a part-time emergency medical technician with METS.

“The first time I saw him was at Greenbriar, across the rubble,” Cox said. “That’s the first time I knew he was OK. I saw him digging through the rubble.”

She said he gave her a little wave when the two saw each other.

Jeffers said she also initially couldn’t reach her husband, but he eventually was able to text her.

Many victims walked around dazed, trying to find loved ones and their pets.

“And then there were people (and) they were like, ‘I can help,’ which was awesome,” Jeffers said.

Smith said in the coming days and weeks, more than 100 ambulance agencies responded from seven states, some coming from as far away as Illinois.

Jeffers said that every day, and not just on May 22, 2011, their work is a calling inspired by a desire to help people. Not all calls are as traumatic.

“If it’s just a little old lady who calls because she’s lonely, you go there and talk to her and let her know she’s not alone,” Jeffers said. “I know it’s very cliché. I like to help people.”

Cox said it beats working at a desk.

“It’s not boring,” she said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next. I enjoy it.”

Text Only
Top Stories
  • 042314 Rec funding Build a Lion_72.jpg Missouri Southern students to vote on new fee, going smoke-free

    Students at Missouri Southern State University will vote next week on whether they support creating a fee that would fund athletic and recreation projects. During the annual student senate-sponsored spring election, students also will be asked whether they support a completely tobacco-free campus.

    April 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • New Kansas gun law draws support, some reservations

    At John’s Sports Center in Pittsburg on Thursday, firearms manager Adam Gariglietti said he supported Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision to sign a bill that will ensure it is legal across the state to openly carry firearms. But, he offered some words of caution. “It’s great that he signed the bill,” Gariglietti said. “But at the same time, common sense goes a long way.”

    April 24, 2014

  • Baxter Springs chili feed to raise money for family of girl facing surgery

    On a Sunday morning in February, 9-year-old Izzy Morris woke up her mother complaining of a headache. Teresa Morris gave her daughter medicine. But an hour later, the headache had worsened. “She was in a lot of pain and started screaming and yelling uncontrollably,” Morris said.

    April 24, 2014

  • Carthage budget committee hears proposal for water, sewer rate increases

    The proposed budget for the Carthage Water & Electric Plant, including increases in water and wastewater rates, dominated discussions Thursday night as the Carthage Budget Ways and Means Committee continued its review of proposed city budgets for the fiscal year starting July 1.

    April 24, 2014

  • 3 To Get Ready

    Three things coming your way in Friday’s Joplin Globe.

    April 24, 2014

  • Severe storms possible this afternoon

    A broken line of thunderstorms will continue to push east across Southeast Kansas and Southwest Missouri this afternoon, bringing a limited tornado risk, and elevated risks for hail and wind damage.

    April 24, 2014

  • Missouri lawmakers file three resolutions calling for impeaching governor

    While Gov. Jay Nixon was in Nevada, Mo., on Wednesday, a Missouri House panel led by Republicans began hearing arguments on three measures calling for impeaching him. Nixon has downplayed the proceedings as a legislative “publicity stunt.” One resolution, sponsored by Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, is critical of Nixon for waiting several months to call special elections to fill three vacated House seats.

    April 23, 2014

  • r042314psumove2.jpg SLIDE SHOW: Moving day for biology and chemistry building at Pittsburg State

    They didn’t all go two-by-two, and the person in charge wasn’t named Noah, but nonetheless, critters of all shapes and sizes were on the move Wednesday. Students, volunteers and staff members helped Delia Lister, director of Nature Reach, relocate everything from a pair of prairie dogs to a vocal macaw named Charlie so that Heckert-Wells Hall — the biology and chemistry building where they are housed on the campus of Pittsburg State University — can undergo a $4.4 million transformation in the coming months.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos 1 Slideshow

  • Respond With Love flower.jpg Joplin pays it forward with flowers; residents asked to return bulbs ‘fostered’ for other towns

    Suzan Morang’s front yard bloomed brightly last year from a colorful array of bulbs that she will happily pass on to someone else this year. Morang, 1207 Xenia Court, is a participant in America Responds With Love, a national nonprofit organization that distributes bulbs to disaster-stricken cities.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 3 To Get Ready

    Three things coming your way in Thursday’s Joplin Globe.

    April 23, 2014