EMS Needs Help

March 11th, 2010

by Jack McLoughlin

Over the past 40 years, there have been vast improvements in fire apparatus!! I’m an old timer, who rode on the tail board of a ’53 FWD, getting an air pack on while barely hanging on. (Talk about dumb)!!

Just take a moment and think about the apparatus changes that affect our safety: closed cabsĀ  – secured equipment – seat belts – better pump – aerial and driving controls – communications – lighting – warnings. I’m sure you could add a few more.

These changes were demanded by the fire fighting community because of the needless deaths and injuries to our brothers. There has been some hard in-fighting because of both the dollars involved in the upgrade, and the macho attitude of a few (it’s definitely more manly and tougher looking to be hanging on the back step than sitting down inside with a seat belt on).

These changes have been required on all apparatus that meet NFPA 1901. It is hard to say how many lives have been helped or saved by these changes – but you know in your gut, – it has been many.

The next area that is crying out for help is the EMS arena. Take a look at some of the following videos and you will see what happens to both patients and EMS personnel in a crash. It’s not pretty – as a matter of fact you can almost hear the bagpipes playing Amazing Grace for everyone in the back of the bus.

(Click the link below for more video links and the rest of the article)

  • This AIFF page has links to several more videos.
  • This page has video of an Ontario Ambulance test in a frontal collision.

Most EMS service in this country is supplied partially or completely by our fire service and the demand for medical service is increasing yearly. In many departments, the EMS workload is over 65%. Obviously the fire service must get involved in a new NFPA initiative to improve our delivery system by improving on the current specifications. Think about it. Who in their right mind would ask their employees to stand up, unsupported, in a fast moving vehicle (weaving through traffic) and perform life saving steps, CPR, etc., on a patient who may be contagious with God knows what??

In addition, the box has many problems, such as protruding objects or outlets, valves, knobs, etc. There are sharp corners that will definitely limit your ability to play chess when your head impacts them in a crash. There are items that are necessary but they are not fastened or not sufficiently fastened and they can become flying missiles in an accident.

The box construction itself should be looked at. Can it withstand a moderate crash with another vehicle or stationary object? Some of the past accidents have seen the boxes open up and spill the personnel all over the street.

Last, but not the least issue, is driver training and monitoring. Driving too quickly with lights and sirens for a sprained wrist does not make a lot of sense. The aim of the fire service is good customer service. The trip to the hospital should not be a hair raising event. We had a great fire suppression system and thanks to the NFPA requirements, we made it better. Let’s do the same for our EMS system.

Jack McLoughlin, B.S.E.E., Inventor, holds over 25 patents in the Fire Fighting and EMS fields, 46 year Fire fighter, 15 year EMT.

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