Huntington, West Virginia made headlines this past Monday, August 15, 2016, after 26 people overdosed on heroin in the span of only 4 hours. Thankfully, there were no deaths and everyone who overdosed survived due to the quick response time of emergency services. Gordon Merry, EMS Director, acted quickly and diverted his resources in an effective manner. “Quite honestly, there should have been deaths in this,” Merry says, “Monday was one of the worst days we have had in dealing with a drug overdose incident.”

Gordon Merry discusses how to effectively react to a crisis and how his team handled the overwhelming amount of overdoses. Merry started as an EMT in 1974 and has over 42 years of experience in the field.

To solve the immediate crisis, Merry sent out seven ambulances. When that wasn’t enough, he called in more from outlying cities. The city’s fire and police departments were also sent out for help. On average, Huntington experiences 20 overdoses weekly. Thankfully, Merry acted quickly and understood the urgency of the dilemma at hand. “It was overwhelming for us. I don’t think anybody has seen something like this,” Merry says of the incident.

Merry discusses how the crisis taxed the cities resources and what needed to be done to adequately help each victim. “We tried to send one ambulance per victim so that they could receive proper care. That basically depleted the ambulances in the city. We had to do a move down, where we move our resources from the county down into the city,” Merry says. “We normally see our calls starting to build up, so we move our resources. With this, everything happened at one time and that took us off guard.”

Greg asks Merry what the takeaway is from this crisis. Merry describes how the county worked together towards a common goal and how to effectively train your team for such an event. “The Police Department, Fire Station and EMS have to work together. Once a year, we have a full scale drill where we practice together and we routinely answer the overdoses together. That is key.”