The Disaster-Proof Red Cross
By Jesús Aguado
The Red Cross of San Miguel de Allende is not just the best-equipped emergency organization in the state; it is now ready to spread its wings and grow as the city does. At the beginning of 2017 the first stone of the Substation Number One will be placed. With that building the Red Cross will once again prove that the organization is ready for any catastrophe or major accident in the World Heritage City.
Moving Forward, Saving Lives
On October 1 this year, the last incident occurred to prove not just the capacity of response from the organization but also their capability. During the Alborada (dawn celebration), 68 people were injured by the fireworks. Antonio Hernández, a dentist, has been working with the Red Cross for the last 22 years. This year, Hernández proposed the installation of an emergency post adjacent to the Jardín Principal during the event, “just in case.” The celebration started as usual at 4am; however, the out of control fireworks rose and fell on the attendees, causing many burns. Later, Alan Álvarez, Director of the Civil Protection Department, told Atención that the regular supplier of the fireworks had an accident at his workshop, was injured, and could not make them. Another producer of fireworks told the local administration that he could make the rockets if he could get the formula. The new producer received it, but something went wrong during the production process and later during the Alborada. That is still under investigation. The result, however, was that 30 people suffered mild injuries caused by the rockets, 37 had moderate burns, and one of them was taken to a hospital with eye trauma. The rest were assisted at the temporary Red Cross emergency post, which worked with 30 first responders, 16 paramedics, and 6 ambulances.
At 7:28am on August 31 of this year, an accident left 68 injured people on the road to Querétaro. In this accident, a compact car was involved as well as a pick-up truck and two buses; one of them overturned. The Red Cross responded quickly to the situation, saving the lives of all involved: five injured people were taken to the hospital in delicate condition, 10 with moderate injuries, and the rest with minor injuries. Later, at the hospitals two of the injured died. Nevertheless, the first responders and paramedics of the organization fulfilled their mission of saving lives and, for them, every minute counts.
Hernández told Atención that these have been the latest incidents, yet there are others recorded. He mentioned as an example a train crash on the road to Taboada during Holy Week in 1998 (when the train still transported people in Mexico) because the workers forgot to change the tracks. That day, the Red Cross, with help from other organizations and Red Cross units from across the state, took the 350 injured people to the hospitals alive; nobody died at the accident location. That same year, there was a flood in town during October. Hernández has dozens of stories about the responses of the organization, but what he noted was that “they have proved that they are always ready and on guard to save lives.”
Substation Number One
To provide faster and better attention to emergencies in the upper area of the city, last year the organization announced the construction of the substation. It will be situated at the corner of Avenida las Américas and Paseo de los Conspiradores. Last month the Red Cross held its Third Gala Dinner at the Hotel Rosewood, an event that gathered 240 attendees with the goal of helping the corporation to make its project a reality, according to President Fernández.
The local administration donated the land, and architect Alma Hernández is currently working on the pre-construction project that, according to Fernández, is in its last phase. It will not be just the substation but also a medical center with 12 medical specialists to provide service at a low cost. The space also will have a parking lot open to the general public, and its revenues will go to support the organization. Currently, an ambulance can take from 30-40 minutes to get to an accident in the upper area due to transit time. The goal is always to be there on time and save lives.
“The budget to pay for the construction is covered,” said Fernández. Now material for the construction is being received at the Red Cross facilities. If you want/to help, call 152 4225.
History of the Red Cross
Luis Arellano, former Red Cross counselor, told Atención that in early 1970, there was a gas station adjacent to the current Instituto Allende, and a bus caught fire there. The municipality had only two ambulances for emergency services at that time—if they were available. One was from the IMSS (Social Security Hospital) and the other was from the general hospital. Neither had trained emergency medical technicians on board. They had only a driver, a stretcher-bearer, and an assistant.
At that fire, burn victims died, not only because there was no fire department, but also because of a lack of ambulances and trained personnel to treat those cases. “I remember that the ambulances were driven full of injured people, but it is very curious that those were people able to walk, while those more [critically burned] died at the accident.”
That could have been the main motivator when a group of citizens gathered in 1980 with the goal of having a Red Cross delegation present in the city to respond to emergency calls. The first members were trained in Celaya, and the organization was inaugurated on May 5, 1980. The first ambulance was donated by the Rotary Club. “The first aid kit was a small plastic box in which they used to carry five muslin wraps, thiomersal (an organomercury compound), some triangular bandages, and scissors. They were trained on how to use the bandages. They could do a lot with that material,” said Arellano. President Fernández says their equipment is more modern now, and they can provide proper attention to keep a patient alive until being transferred to a hospital.
There have been several emergency institutions in the city, such as ERUM (Group of Rescue and Medical Emergencies). However, the only one that has overcome crises and internal problems is the Red Cross. It has been ranked by the National Red Cross as one of the best in the country for its provision of first-responder medical services. To date, Cruz Roja has assisted at more than 80,000 emergencies. Today the number has grown from 200 calls the first year to 4,000 annually.
911 Is the New Emergency Number
Ricardo Benavides, San Miguel Secretary of Public Safety, told this newspaper that on October 3, the new emergency number (911) started operating, and it will be operating across the country in the months to come. Currently it receives the emergency calls for Public Safety, Traffic, Fire Department, Civil Protection, and the Red Cross. In the past, the 066 emergency number, which will continue operating during the six month transition period along with 911, had problems receiving calls from NEXTEL, Megafon, Iusacell, and other companies. The calls were answered in other cities or even other states. Benavides said that dozens of calls were made to identify and fix the problem, and now all the municipal calls are received locally.