SALEM, Ore. -- It’s two weeks and counting until the solar eclipse. The spectacle is expected to draw around a million people to Oregon.
All those people may mean gridlock on Oregon roads, especially in the path of totality.
“We've been planning together with partners at Salem Health and at Salem Fire Department for months,” said Jennifer Pratt, a General Manager with Falck Northwest, an ambulance company operating in Salem.
She and other emergency responders have, for months, been talking about all the people expected in Oregon for the eclipse. It could be a nightmare for emergency crews.
“The concern mainly right now is an increase in call volume, a lot more than what we would normally see. Anywhere from 40 percent to 50 percent calls of normal,” said Pratt.
She said she's also worried about traffic congestion and resulting delays in service.
“Usually our response times are 12 minutes or less in our response area. I wouldn't be surprised if people wait up to double that,” Pratt said.
Pratt said she's already mapped out a contingency plan that outlines how to get from each corner of the city to the hospital.
But it's not just emergency crews in Salem preparing.
“We've actually started looking at making lists of extra employees,” said Mike Sargent, a Metro West Operations Manager. Metro West is an ambulance company that operates in Washington County.
He said staff at Metro West are ready to send help to the coast and other areas if necessary.
“It really depends on what actually happens. So we always prepare for the worst but hope for the best,” said Jan Lee, Metro West Spokesperson.
The possible delays have people at care facilities all over worried, especially if there's a medical emergency.
“Anything when people are in danger, that concerns me,” said Shirley who lives at Willamette Falls Adult Care Home.
“Taking care of 95-year-olds, 100-year-olds, can be pretty scary when you need help right away,” said Ana Campean, who owns Willamette Falls Adult Care Home.
She said she’s already received an alert from the Oregon Department of Human Services about being prepared for the eclipse.
“We want to make sure we have all the medication, at least for two weeks, all the food, the water and enough to make sure our residents are taken care of,” said Campean.
While emergency crews all over are gearing up and adding extra people, staff at Willamette Valley Hospice are staying out of the office.
Kevin Hohnbaum, the Business Development Manager at Willamette Valley Hospice in Salem, said their service area extends from Salem to Detroit, then to Grand Ronde, down to Sweet Home and up to Canby.
“We have a large area of coverage, obviously, for delivering care in the home. The challenge is how are we going to get there,” said Hohnbaum.
That’s why he said staff at Willamette Valley Hospice will not go into the office on eclipse day. Instead they will be in strategically located positions at their homes throughout the service area.
Hohnbaum said in-home care providers will be ready to respond wherever they're needed. But like emergency crews, it may take a while.
Pratt said due to the possible delay, people should make sure to have a first aid kit, water, and food just in case.
She said even staff at Falck are being told to prepare by bringing sleeping bags to work in case roads are impassible and they can't go home to get some shuteye.
As for air support, staff at multiple emergency transport companies said they’ve been told the Life Flight Network and REACH Air Medical Services will have additional helicopters strategically placed and at the ready.
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