HEMSI prepares for Cecil Ashburn closure

HUNTSVILLE, Ala - Beginning Monday, January 7th, a 3.4 mile stretch of Cecil Ashburn Drive in Huntsville will be closed to all traffic for 10 months. As we get closer to the closure date,  viewers are contacting WHNT News 19 with concerns about how emergency services will get to people in the Big Cove and Hampton Cove areas.

HEMSI officials say they are prepared for the closure. CEO Jon Howell says ambulances that are stationed in the southeast area of Madison County will not be asked to respond to calls in other areas anymore.

"In the past, we've sometimes pulled those resources to help us when we got busy and other parts of the county and after Cecil Ashburn closes we're going to try to leave those resources there," Howell said.

They will also potentially increase their staff in other areas of the county.

If they ever need to, HEMSI crews can also access areas from the air.

"So if there were a serious injury in the southeastern part of the county and our paramedics arrived on scene and needed to call in a helicopter, they would," he said.

He says ambulance drivers don't transport patients along Cecil Ashburn, their normal route is Governors Drive. But even though their route hasn't changed they are still making some changes to the accommodate the closure. To prepare for the closure the city has installed new traffic control technology on every signal on Governors going over the mountain.

"Our ambulances are equipped with the technology that tracks them on GPS and sends a radio signal out. When we're coming, it'll turn the red lights green in the direction we're traveling, while it turns the red lights red in all three other directions," he explained.

Howell says the crew meets every week to review response time. If they find that response time in Big Cove and Hampton Cove are longer than normal, they will make changes to get people to the hospital faster.

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