The Dirty Dozen

Twelve ways we endanger ourselves


Gary Ludwig, MS, EMT-P | | Saturday, July 26, 2008

I receive e-mails from the U.S. Fire Administration every time a firefighter dies. These e-mails usually list specific information about the fallen firefighter, such as their name, age, department and details of their death. It truly pains me when I see one of these messages waiting for me in my inbox.

ForEMS deaths, I review the notices when I The National EMS Memorial Service also honors those lost. If a death is particularly horrific, the related news story will pop up on several EMS Web sites. Two tragedies come to recent memory: One incident led to the deaths of three EMTs inArkansas last year when their ambulance was hit by a train at a crossing. The other incident involved the deaths of three EMTs from Antwerp EMS inOhio earlier this year when their ambulance was broadsided by a commercial truck.

These incidents are tragic, and every line-of-duty death (LODD) in our profession is heartbreaking. How many go unrecognized? And, perhaps more important, how many could we have prevented?

ÂDirty_ Deeds

To see how we can better prevent LODDs inEMS, we can look to initiatives in related professions. Statistically, you're safer flying all the way around the globe than you are getting in your car and driving to work. Why?

Partly because the aviation industry uses a consolidated reporting system to proactively identify near misses and observe trends in order to prevent errors, injuries and deaths. For instance, if a pilot has to make an emergency landing because his small plane begins sputtering and losing power, and the reporting system also shows similar problems within the region in the past couple of days, an alert can be sent out to warn other pilots of potentially contaminated fuel in the region.

Through its reporting system, one of the trends the airline industry discovered is that 98% of aviation mishaps were the result of human error. On the basis of those findings, Gordon Dupont, an aviation expert from Canada, came up with the ˙dirty dozenÓ -- a list of human performance factors most commonly related to maintenance errors and airline incidents: lack of communication, complacency, lack of knowledge, distraction, lack of teamwork, fatigue, lack of resources, pressure, lack of assertiveness, stress, lack of awareness and norms.

Coming Clean

The aviation industry has addressed errors and accidents via a reporting system for untoward events, and the fire service is beginning to more closely examine injuries and deaths by following the airline industry model, producing such initiatives But what can we do to protect our own?

First,, These Web sites acceptEMS near-miss information, including those involving fire-based systems, third-service models, hospital-based systems, volunteer systems, the private ambulance industry and others. If approved by your department, share information about incidents in your area or forward articles that you've read, so we can continue growing these valuable resources and reveal where in the dirty dozen we're most at risk.

When it comes to protecting our own, it doesn't matter what patch you have on your sleeve. We should all consider what we can do to eliminate the dirty dozen in our profession. Protecting every public safety professional should be our priority. After all, the first thing drilled in our heads in school is that scene safety always comes first.

Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Line of Duty Deaths, Leadership and Professionalism, Operations and Protcols

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS


Get JEMS in Your Inbox


Fire EMS Blogs

Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts


EMS Airway Clinic

Innovation & Progress

Follow in the footsteps of these inspirational leaders of EMS.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

New Ambulance, Fire Engine Approved for Illinois Department

Officials approve new purchases for Bloomington.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Alabama Officials Worry over Ambulance Coverage

County officials work to find best solution.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Car Crashes into Texas Ambulance

Ambulance hit while responding to a call.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

PulsePoint PSA, San Diego

App will allow trained San Diego residents to respond to nearby cardiac arrest c
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >

More Product Videos >