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New sirens cut ambulance crashes in Okla.

By EMS1 Staff

TULSA, Okla. — New siren technology has reduced the number of ambulance crashes at an EMS agency by 50 percent.

Oklahoma's Emergency Medical Services Authority introduced Howlers to its fleet that covers central and northeast areas of the state last November. Over 10 months from January this year, it reported eight crashes involving its ambulances at intersections compared to 16 for the same period in 2008.

EMSA Paramedic Michael Ginn, who was involved in two of the 16 crashes last year, said that in both instances motorists failed to yield the right-of-way, even though the ambulances’ emergency lights and sirens were activated.

"Drivers are increasingly distracted, but the Howler seems to shake them to attention," he said. "It takes longer for ambulances to get to patients when motorists fail to yield. The Howler helps us get where we’re going faster and improves safety on the road."

EMSA in Oklahoma and Acadian Ambulance Service in Louisiana are the first agencies in the nation to outfit their entire fleets with the sirens.

The Howlers emit low-frequency tones that cause objects within 200 feet to reverberate. It means motorists can feel an ambulance approaching even if they can't see or hear it.

EMSA estimates that the reduction in collisions has saved $80,000 in ambulance repair and replacement costs alone. "Of course, that's just damage to our ambulances, it's not at all unusual for cars that collide with ambulances to be totaled," EMSA Fleet Manager Kelly Smith said. "And there’s a human aspect – injuries, pain and suffering, lost productivity – that must be considered, too."

The $400 Howlers complement EMSA’s existing sirens rather than replace them, with the agency saying the technology's penetrating, 10-second burst is ideal for helping paramedics cut a path through heavy traffic and intersections.

"Whenever we use the Howler it seems that it catches people attention a lot more than just the regular siren," Paramedic Steve Leissner told NewsOK.com.

"That gives all of our field crews a lot more confidence that we can get to where we need to be safely."

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