Construction Could Lengthen Emergency Response Times in Runnells

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RUNNELLS, Iowa--City leaders in the small town of Runnells say they're already dealing with slow response times when it comes to fire and medical emergencies.

Now the town is taking another blow.

A construction project scheduled next year could mean even slower response times and one woman says the issue is putting lives on the line.

It's not uncommon to see the Runnells Fire Department empty. It’s run completely by volunteers but that's a problem when there's an emergency.

Nine months ago, Myrna Hunt's husband Burt needed medical attention.

“I called 911 right away, no one`s coming, no response, I called them again,” says Myrna Hunt.

He had collapsed in the bathroom, hit his head and couldn't move.

When no one was available in Runnells to respond, dispatchers start paging surrounding towns for assistance. It took 40 minutes for help to arrive.

“Finally an ambulance shows up but it`s from Des Moines,” says Hunt.

Burt coded on the way to the hospital and two more times once he arrived. He died from an aortic aneurysm.

Doctors told Hunt there wasn't anything they could have done, but she always wondered.

“You wonder if he could have gotten there sooner if something could have been done,” says Hunt.

Soon response time could be even slower.

The river bridge along 316 coming into Runnells is closing both lanes for repairs in March. The closure will cut off the town of Runnells from Pleasantville.

“It`s going to cut us back a little, it`s not a good thing, it really isn`t,” says Runnells’ Mayor Ron Tate.

Mayor Tate says the towns medical and fire support come from Camp Township and there isn't enough money to staff full time positions.

“They don`t have the funding to have an EMT person here all the time, all we can do is help support them and our funds from the state of Iowa have gone down so we`re pretty much stuck,” says Mayor Tate.

Once the river bridge closes, Pleasantville will be unable to respond, leaving one less option when there's an emergency.

“It`s going to cut down on one place we can call and we`re not going to be able to call them,” says Mayor Tate.

It’s leaving families in Runnells relying on neighboring towns even further away and in Hunt’s case risk waiting 40 minutes or longer for help.

“It shouldn't take no more than ten to fifteen minutes at the most, at the most. When there is nobody around, it sucks,” says Hunt.

Hunt said she recently learned there was a lack of communication when she first called 911 dispatchers and some towns were not paged leaving the furthest city Des Moines left respond.

The river bridge coming into Runnells is expected to close in March and is scheduled to be under construction for three and a half months.