The worst homicide in Jackson County's modern history tested not only the mettle of first responders but a back-up emergency plan for providing ambulance services during a multi-casualty incident.
After sending all six of its on-duty ambulances to west Medford to transport the six Criado family members pulled from their burning home on July 18, Mercy Flights invoked the Ambulance Resource Management System to ensure no other emergency call went unanswered.
It was the first real test of the system since its inception, said Doug Stewart, chief operations officer for Mercy Flights.
"I was very pleased to see the ARMS system worked," he said.
All medical 9-1-1 calls requiring ambulance response were temporarily diverted to Mercy Flights dispatchers through the Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon dispatch center, said Margie Moulin, ECSO director.
Ambulances from fire districts in Rogue River and Ashland then rolled to predetermined and strategically positioned locations, said Ashland Fire & Rescue Division Chief Greg Case.
One of AFR's ambulances staged in the middle of downtown Ashland. The other went north of town to allow a faster response time to emergencies in Phoenix and Talent, two cities not normally covered by Ashland crews, Case said.
"ARMS temporarily suspends all ambulance service areas," Case said. "Basically we act as one countywide ambulance service."
Emergency medical calls during the 10th Street tragedy were handled by the fire departments' ambulances, Stewart said.
"We got six or seven calls coming through, four of which were medical transports," Stewart said. "And nobody had a delay in service."
Stewart is pleased the first real test of the ARMS system "went exactly as we had planned."
Mercy Flights ambulances lined up on the narrow street the morning of July 18 as police and fire crews worked feverishly trying to revive 30-year-old Tabasha Paige-Criado, 51-year-old Jordan Criado and their four young children on the front lawn of their home at 1027 W. 10th St. The mother and two of the children had been stabbed, and all suffered severe smoke inhalation.
Mercy Flights paramedics continued to try to resuscitate the victims as they were transported to Rogue Valley Medical Center and Providence Medford Medical Center.
At the hospital, crews wheeled the patients into the emergency rooms while giving medical information to nurses and doctors, Stewart said.
The only survivor was Jordan Criado, who remains on life-support and nonresponsive in Rogue Valley Medical Center. Police suspect Criado of stabbing his family members and setting their house on fire, though he has yet to be charged.
Stewart has been to many multi-patient scenes in his 25 years of experience, including one where up to 10 people were killed in a structure fire, he said.
"But never one with that many homicides, particularly any involving children," he said.
According the county's multi-casualty incident plan, ARMS is considered when two or more mutual-aid ambulances are requested to a single incident or when ambulance resources become inadequate for a prolonged period of time, Stewart said.
An earlier test of ARMS was canceled before it could be fully put in place when a report of a mass-casualty incident at Amy's Kitchen turned out to be a false alarm, he said.
But Stewart warned this might not have gone as smoothly had the casualty count been worse.
"If there had been a bus wreck or a plane crash with 40 people or more, then all the normal rules are off the table," he said. "That would take all the county's resources and more."
Jackson County's responder teams practice for just such an emergency on an annual basis, Stewart said. While requesting help from other counties, the ambulances would "round robin" while paramedics triaged victims for treatment and transport, he said.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.