Situational Awareness Bulletin – Emergency Vehicle Operations Safety
In the two (2) month time period between January 19 – March 22, 2017, there were twelve (12) known motor vehicle crashes involving emergency vehicles in Suffolk County. Please take note of this significant statistic and take steps necessary to ensure that the safety of our most precious resource, EMS Providers, is not placed in unnecessary jeopardy. Per NY State Vehicle & Traffic Law section 1104, Emergency Vehicle Operators have the responsibility “to operate the vehicle with due regard for the safety of all persons.” Needless to say that if you are operating an emergency vehicle and your vehicle comes in contact with another vehicle, or another object, the operator of the emergency vehicle is held to a higher standard than the general public. This generally means that the Emergency Vehicle Operator was either driving too fast, too close, or distracted. Indeed, there may even be circumstances where the Emergency Vehicle Operator bears some responsibility for the wake effect crashes that may occur where the emergency vehicle is not directly involved.
Please take a few moments to review NY State DOH Policy Statement 00-13 at the link below. Remember that in most cases, the use of red/white lights and sirens does not save a significant amount of time where life/limb is otherwise in jeopardy, but it does put the crew and the public in jeopardy needlessly. This also increases liability for Emergency Vehicle Operators and their agencies, and could result in both civil and criminal penalties. Please review NY State EMS Policy Statement 00-13 regarding The Operation of Emergency Medical Services Vehicles, paying particular attention to the section on Emergency and Non-Emergency Operations, found at https://www.health.ny.gov/professionals/ems/policy/00-13.htm.
The NY State Emergency Medical Advisory Committee worked to create Policy Statement 12-04 Advisory on Patient Care in a Moving Ambulance. This policy speaks to EMS provider safety during transit to the hospital but does indeed connect the dots between safe driving and the patient’s clinical needs. The policy can be found at https://www.health.ny.gov/professionals/ems/pdf/12-04.pdf.
An article recently published in EMS1.com puts this all into perspective nicely. This article, entitled Sticking to the Basics by Patrick Lickiss focuses on 5 questions to guide EMS transport decisions. The article can be found at https://www.ems1.com/ems-training/articles/224304048-5-questions-to-guide-EMS-transport-decisions/.
Please take this wake-up call seriously. It is incumbent on us all to take advantage of lessons learned, and best practices to ensure that we are effective in both our patient care activities that includes safe response to the scene and transport to the hospital.