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Emergency services finding routes around flood

The closure of Highway 5 has not only been affecting residents in the area, it has also made travelling west of Humboldt difficult for emergency vehicles.

The closure of Highway 5 has not only been affecting residents in the area, it has also made travelling west of Humboldt difficult for emergency vehicles.Instead of taking the detour marked out for local traffic, the Humboldt and District Ambulance Service, the Humboldt Fire Department and the RCMP have a different detour for emergencies.The emergency services have been granted special permission to use a route north of Hwy. 5 that goes through private property. "There's been a special route created for emergency services, around the detour, that on a Saskatoon trip only adds about an extra 12 minutes," said Derek Dagenais from the Humboldt and District Ambulance Service."Luckily it isn't too bad, but unfortunately when we're doing one to two calls a day to Saskatoon alone, it is quite an inconvenience."The fire department and RCMP are also using this route. "Basically what our protocol is going to be is to take (the same route as the ambulance), said Mike Kwanica of the Humboldt Fir Department."That's probably going to be the best way for us to go because it will be shorter."The grid roads they are detouring on are being well kept up by the R.M. of Humboldt. The only problem for the ambulance is the ride is not as smooth as it is on the pavement."The gravel roads aren't a comfortable place for patients," said Dagenais.The detour around Hwy. 5 is not the only problem emergency vehicles are faced with this year. They have to deal with flooding on other roads as well."Every spring (in the last few years), we've been communicating with the RMs on any road shut downs, any detours, any problem areas and they're marked right into out RM maps," said Dagenais."We don't have the luxury of going down a road and then all of a sudden having to get turned around. For some people, that's an inconvenience. For us, it hampers the response time and can be crucial to a patient."They have RM maps up with flags of closed roads, detours and alternate roads to locations at their base."The RMs are great on updating us on major road closures," said Dagenais. "Not only are we affected, the RCMP are affected with their responses, the fire department's affected, so we funnel all that information down try to make sure everybody is on the loop with that." Road closures are not the only obstacle the ambulance has to overcome get to patients."We've also addressed concerns in regards to even entering property that's underwater."Since they have to deal with odd situations in the winter, they do have back-up plans in place."We always have these precautions in place for the winter because our incidents don't always happen on roadways, said Dagenais."Unfortunately this year, the field has moved in, in the sense that there's farmyards that are inaccessible, so we're just using some of the same policies that we use in the winter."If a patient is in an area the ambulance cannot access, they will call the RCMP or fire department in to use their four wheel drive vehicles to get to the area.They also rely on information the caller can give the dispatcher about the property, so they know what to expect when they arrive on the scene. So far there have been no major issues, but it does affect the mind-set of the emergency works when they receive a call. The emergency vehicles are not the only larger vehicles being affected by the highway closure. Buses from the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) are experiencing small delays in their business because of the flooded highway. "It's just a little bit of interruption," said Todd McKay from STC."We're working to make service running smoothly as possible." The buses are taking the same detour as local traffic, on a grid road south of Hwy. 5. "It adds on a few minutes, but it's not too bad," said McKay.The STC is working together with the Department of Highways and Infrastructure and staying informed in case of any changes, said McKay.