Rapid Response: Roadway incidents are a hot zone for EMS

Multiple roadway LODDs in early 2020 are tragic reminders of the importance of time, distance and shielding to reduce hot zone risk

With an average 1,500 ambulance crashes per year resulting in injury, it’s time to recognize patient transport as a high-frequency, high-risk activity deserving a safety overhaul in EMS. Learn more in a special coverage Paramedic Chief Digital Edition, “How to improve patient and provider safety on the road." 

What happened: Multiple public safety professionals have been killed while responding to roadway incidents in the first two weeks of 2020. Paramedic Supervisor Matt C. Smelser, 44, was killed on Interstate 70 on January 6 in Pennsylvania while attending to an injured person. Smelser was struck by a tractor-trailer shortly after exiting an ambulance. This was a different incident than the widely reported multiple vehicle collision that killed five people and injured at least 60 on the Pennsylvania turnpike early that same morning.

Lt. David Eric Hill, 39, a firefighter/paramedic, and police officer Nicholas Reyna, 27, were killed and another firefighter/paramedic was injured as they worked the scene of a crash in icy conditions on January 11 in North Lubbock, Texas. The injured firefighter/paramedic is reported to be in critical condition. The three responders were struck by a vehicle coming from the opposite direction that crossed the median.

On January 12, a police officer was critically injured after an intoxicated driver struck his vehicle. The officer was inside his cruiser, assisting with traffic control for storm damage clean-up, when the cruiser was struck. The officer is reported to have sustained a concussion, fractured pelvis and fractured tailbone.

An off-duty Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department detective, Amber Leist, 41, was struck by a vehicle on January 12. Leist was returning to her vehicle after helping an elderly woman who had fallen in the street safely across the street. She died of her injuries after transport to a nearby hospital.

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