Line-of-duty death and injury prevention

I just finished reading the list of EMS professionals killed in the line of duty who will be honored at the 2010 National EMS Memorial Service. This year 26 EMS professionals from 17 states will be recognized at the June 26 memorial service in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

In the official release, the honorees' names, services, dates of death and causes of death are listed. It should be sobering to all readers that half of the deaths were related to ambulance collisions or aeromedical aviation accidents. The release does not report how many EMS professionals were injured in ambulance collisions, but I am sure it numbers in the dozens or even hundreds.

I believe that zero injuries and deaths from ambulance collisions are possible. My zero accident attitude — or ZAA! — is based on every EMS professional following these safe driving practices.

1. Adopt a zero accident attitude at the start of every call. Commit yourself to getting through that call without an accident. ZAA every call!

2. Minimize the use of red lights and sirens to the point that lights and sirens are the exception and not the norm.

3. Control driving distractions. No phone texting, phone talking, mobile data terminal typing, or radio use while driving.

4. Always wear a seatbelt in the front compartment and patient care compartment. Ejection or gymnastics inside the patient care compartment during a roll-over is a fast path to rapid death.

5. Secure equipment — oxygen bottles, equipment bags, and data monitors — inside the patient care compartment. I am making weekly reminders to my service safety director about the importance of installing monitor mounts inside our ambulances. If we come to a sudden stop, I don’t want the monitor to fly into my head or the patients.

There are lots of ways to honor EMS professionals that have died in the line of duty. One way is to follow and encourage safe driving practices that will minimize the risk of an ambulance collision. Join me in starting every shift with a Zero Accident Attitude.

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