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A framework of safety for responses News

July 6, 2010

EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

A framework of safety for responses

Crashes continue to be one of major causes of responder death across the United States

Editor's note: With new GPS technology to alert drivers to emergency vehicles in Denver, our Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh outlines five ways to stay safe while responding.

The type of technology described in the article may aid in the safety of emergency crews responding to calls. I see it more as adding another piece to the framework for safe vehicle operations. It's vitally important to not trivialize emergency response — crashes continue to be one of major causes of responder death across the United States.

Remember the key points:

1. As the cliché goes, safety begins with you. The lights and siren do not make you invincible. You are placing yourself and the driving public at risk when in the emergency mode.

2. Do not be distracted. Focus on driving. We expect that from our driving public; considering that we have way more distracting technology in our emergency vehicles, there's no reason why we shouldn't heed our own warning.

3. Preplanning will help you. Know where you are going before you leave. Plan for traffic, construction, access to the scene and departure routes to hospitals. The more you know, the more you can focus on operating the vehicle.

4. Advocate for technology that can help, but don't depend upon it. Your common sense and calm demeanor will get you and your crew there safely.

5. Ask yourself, 'Do I really need to get there that fast?' Will the minute or two saved make a difference in that patient's outcome? You may not be able to change your operating protocol, but you might be able to work it to your advantage.

An ambulance crash is reported just about every day in the United States. Sometimes one of us is killed. Many times we are injured. Think safety and about the ones who love you and expect you to come home after your shift. At least be safe for them.

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at
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