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Joanna Hoyt
08-02-2010, 01:48 AM
I'm working on a contemporary murder mystery set in a remote part of upstate NY. My MC calls 911 to report that she's found her housemate lying at the bottom of a gorge and looking quite dead (neck broken). I'm presuming that the dispatcher would send a med-evac helicopter, and probably also a coroner; would the police also be sent in? And would the dispatcher ask questions about how the body was discovered, when the person was last seen alive etc, or just find out how to get people in to the body? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Joanna

jclarkdawe
08-02-2010, 02:30 AM
I'm working on a contemporary murder mystery set in a remote part of upstate NY. My MC calls 911 to report that she's found her housemate lying at the bottom of a gorge and looking quite dead (neck broken). I'm presuming that the dispatcher would send a med-evac helicopter, and probably also a coroner; would the police also be sent in? No. And would the dispatcher ask questions about how the body was discovered, when the person was last seen alive etc, or just find out how to get people in to the body? No. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Joanna

Ever hear the saying "Cold and dead" (except for drownings and freezing, where you want the warm and dead)? Unless there is some obvious sign, like the head is twenty feet from the body, or the caller has some serious credibility, person will be assumed to be alive.

Initial call would get a police car, a fire engine (probably a ladder truck), and an ambulance. If police get there first, he/she would stand on top of gorge because only firefighters are dumb enough to go down ravines. In NYC, the fire engine would probably call a rescue, although this depends how bad the descent would be and bringing the patient back up.

If there is an obvious sign of death, a paramedic could call it at the scene, but more likely, you'd work the patient. Especially in NYC, you could support functions well enough to give it a shot. (As opposed to somewhere where a travel time would be an hour or more.)

Med evac helicopters are expensive. They are not sent out until all other options have been utilized (realize that an experienced EMT can go through the options in about 15 seconds).

I've had 9-1-1 have the caller start CPR on obviously dead people (rigor set in, lividity). Where 9-1-1 calls a patient is when it's blatantly obvious to a blind person the patient is dead. Or caller describes a reasonable scenario. Such as, "My 80-year-old mother with terminal cancer and a DNR order is no longer breathing, has no pulse, looks dead, and hasn't been for the past hour." Even then an EMT is frequently sent out to confirm, although the call is coded so that we know not to rush.

Under your scenario, there's no way I'd call this patient, but no way I'd waste a med evac copter on it.

Best of luck

Jim Clark-Dawe
retired volunteer Captain/EMT

Joanna Hoyt
08-02-2010, 09:13 PM
Thank you very much. Clearly I was on the wrong track about procedures.
I should have clarified--the body is at the bottom of a ravine which the caller lacks skills to climb down, and the top of the ravine is at least half an hour from the nearest road. Still no copter?

PeterL
08-02-2010, 09:39 PM
Still no copter unless they can't get the body out with ropes, etc. They would have to look at the situation, at least, before calling in a helicopter.

jclarkdawe
08-02-2010, 11:40 PM
Peter is right. Still no helicopter. A med evac copter needs about 250' of clear area to land. A hoist copter, such as the Coast Guard has, could lift the body, but only if there's no other way. Going to cost a lot of money to do it that way, like probably close to $10,000.

I've hoofed people on stretches out of the damnest places, up ravines and down mountains. You just hope when you get the call that they're pretty small. Kids are the best.

I'm sorry. I just went back to your original post. For some reason I'd thought you were talking NYC, instead of upstate New York. Doesn't really change my answer much, other than with extended travel time I might be more willing to call it at the scene.

But if I got there and there was the faintest sign of life, such as heart fibrilation, I'd work him. And the heart is incredibly rugged and a broken neck has to be just right to terminate all life. Give it an hour or so, sure, the person is deader than dead. But as any EMT knows, you can't always predict these things.

Still won't call a med evac, though, unless I thought I had a really viable patient. And even then, we'd have to transport him to the nearest hayfield or ball field. You've got to have someplace to land the damned thing.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Joanna Hoyt
08-03-2010, 04:22 AM
Thanks! That's much clearer. Just let me see if i have it now. The firefighters actually get the body to the top of the gorge,after which the EMT attempts resuscitation if the person isn't very, very evidently dead. The police stay atop the gorge. If the police get there first, does everyone wait for them? And would they likely be arriving on ATVs?

jclarkdawe
08-03-2010, 05:41 AM
Thanks! That's much clearer. Just let me see if i have it now. The firefighters actually get the body to the top of the gorge Firefighters supply the manpower. You just keep calling fire trucks until you get enough of them. Technical rescue skills can be either a firefighter or EMT, although many people, like me, are both firefighters and EMTs. If the rescue is highly technical, there are actually people who specialize in cliff rescues. If this is a wilderness area, there are also volunteer groups that help. (Upstate New York is a big area, but there is a lot of state and national land there.),

after which the EMT attempts resuscitation if the person isn't very, very evidently dead. Treatment starts as soon as the first EMT gets down to the bottom. EMT will be one of the first to go down. Not only do they do the resuscitation, they have to package the patient for travel. Minimum would be a scoop basket, long board, neck brace. Since I'm presuming the patient has no vital signs, CPR would be started. O2 would be administered, and chest compressions would be done. These would be maintained during the transport. Maximum time CPR would stop is thirty seconds.

The police stay atop the gorge. Unless they decide it's a probably crime scene. But a lot of this depends upon how difficult access to the bottom of the ravine is. My guess is there will be a shortage of manpower and I'd use the police for grunt work if I have to.

If the police get there first, does everyone wait for them? It somewhat depends upon the structure of the departments, as sometimes police does EMT and rescue work. The police officer, if he arrived first, would initially be providing information. Then he'd start looking for a way down, although he might not actually start down. One issue is that a ravine is likely to block radio signals, so someone needs to stay at the top and relay information.

A lot of this depends upon how technical the descent is. But normally one or two EMTs would do the initial descent. A fire officer would stay at the top organizing the response.

And would they likely be arriving on ATVs? Probably not initially, although it depends. If we can get them there quickly, absolutely. But the forestry trucks can go through a fair amount of crap. And preference seems to be more gators that ATVs as they handle more gear.

If you're in upstate New York, you might contact your local fire department. Usually they'll be happy to show you the equipment they'd use. They might be able to tell you when someone is planning on doing this type of training. And if you're really lucky, they'll even let you be the victim at the training.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

C.M. Daniels
08-04-2010, 12:04 PM
I'm a coroner. The majority of my calls involve EMT's. Most of the time, it's to make certain that the individual is truly dead. I've had cases where family members/friends/bystanders still haven't believed the a person is dead when they're cold and stiff. 911 gets called and the medics respond. That's when I'm brought in.

As others have said, there's no need for a chopper for a dead person. They're not going anywhere. Ropes and a basket should work in this situation.