By ESTEVAN MEDRANO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
February 12, 2015
South Padre Island entities are being tasked with preparing for the yearly surge of youth that will funnel into the Laguna Madre area and congest the Queen Isabella Bridge. Spring Break never ceases to bring with it unpredictability, and the local fire department has already made a number of adjustments to provide more effective medical accommodations throughout the City, especially in light of last year’s experiences.
The following is the second installment of a weekly series which aims to inform the Laguna Madre community of just how the Island is preparing to face the tasks required to ensure a safe and profitable Spring Break SPI 2015.
Bad judgment is unavoidable when thousands of 20-somethings stressed from the pressures of higher learning choose to come together for a week of alcohol-infused fun while getting little more than a few hours of sleep every night. During Spring Break, agencies begin receiving a rapid rise in call volume for situations of alcohol poisoning, as well as the aftermath of alcohol-related altercations as early as 5 p.m. every day.
The SPI Fire Department plans around college calendars and regularly tracks hotel occupancy and special events during peak tourist periods. Collating this information helps the department predict how busy the current Spring Break season will be compared to previous seasons. And if early numbers are any indication, it should be quite a busy month.
Previously, the presence of Coca-Cola Beach allowed a single area to be regularly monitored, and in years past a first aid tent was installed near the venue so individuals in need of medical attention could receive care quickly. This year there is concern about predicting this season’s “hotspots” in the absence of Coca-Cola Beach. Now, numerous venues throughout the area are vying for that “it” spot and will have to be covered by the same resources. Last year, the response to this dispersal was a mobile medical unit that was deployed, with 16 ambulances transporting patients.
But as Fire Chief Marcus Smith* admitted, it was a bit of learning experience. “The problem was that every single patient had to be transported to that one point whether it was for a cut, an intoxicated person, or a serious emergency,” he said. “We had limited transport resources. There were several times when we depleted all 16 ambulances. They were all running calls,” he said.
This year there are plans to put individual first aid areas at the venues — such as Clayton’s Beach Bar and the Isla Grand Hotel — during peak periods. Ultimate Music Experience (UME), which is Mar. 14 through 22, provides their own EMS, but other local entities will be present to assist with major entertainment events to reduce the number of transports needed and provide more timely care for patients.
*Correction: The name of the South Padre Island fire chief was incorrect. Fire Chief Marcus Smith was previously listed in the story as Chad Harden.
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