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6 Private vehicle response tips for EMS providers

During a recent training session, my paid-on-call department chief clarified our SOG for responding to the station or directly to incidents. Interestingly, workman’s compensation coverage for EMS calls starts at the time of page. For fire calls, coverage does not start until the responder reaches the station.

For all responders and for all types of incidents, safety starts at the time of call. These are my tips for reaching the incident safely when I respond in my privately-owned vehicle.

1. Put on my seatbelt before starting the car.

2. Look up the call address in my map book before leaving my driveway. I can’t drive and look at the map book or smartphone GPS. You shouldn’t, either.

3. As needed, I call in service on the radio before leaving my driveway.

4. It is normal to be amped up when leaving an emergency, but I need to recognize that my fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system has been activated. Don’t let this transfer into aggressive driving and speeding.

5. Follow department SOGs for use of red lights and sirens on personal vehicles.

6. Turn off my car stereo, ignore my cell phone, and don’t attempt to text or make calls. Focus on driving.

Finally, stay up-to-date with the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule, including promptly replacing headlight and turn signal bulbs, regular oil changes, and proper tire pressure.

What are your tips for safe travel in your privately owned vehicle?

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on LinkedIn.
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