Any loss of life or serious injury in our response or delivery ofEMS care is a terrible tragedy. This has been a concern of a number of EMS leaders and researchers over many years, with serious ambulance crashes andEMS roadside tragedies occurring every day.
National resources exist to investigate these tragic events and to assistEMS in improving safety. The primary organization that can bring this expertise toEMS is the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The NTSB has a team of engineers, transport crash analysts and other experts with the technical skills to investigate a complex crash scenario, and also the power to generate national recommendations. Unfortunately, the NTSB hasn't investigated an ambulance crash since 1979, and, since then, there have been an estimated 1,600 fatalities related to ambulance crashes.
Unlike commercial vehicles, there's no national database for ambulance crashes that result in serious and fatal injuries and/or in substantially damaged or destroyed ambulances. There are also no technical crashworthiness standards for the rear compartment of our ambulances.
TheEMS community knows there's a problem. But, until we have data to analyze, track and trend probable causes, we can't make sound recommendations to address equipment failure or unsafe practices that wesuspect are the cause of loss of lives and livelihoods, and leave communities at risk for limited emergency response.
An ad hoc group of EMS professionals recently assembled to address concerns about ambulance crashes after a July 20, 2007, crash occurred inAntwerp,Ohio. The collision killed five occupants in the ambulance and left the community with only 50% of their EMS fleet, tragically killing one-third of theirEMS responders. This ad hoc groupƒnow known as the Ambulance Transportation Safety (ATS) Task Forceƒis petitioning the NTSB to assistEMS, as it does for commercial and other vehicles.
A position paper, petitioning the NTSB to assistEMS with data analysis and technical resources, can be found atwww.objectivesafety.net/Policyinfo.htm. This paper calls for NTSB action.
Many of us have been involved in a crash personally, or have a friend or relative who has been involved in or failed to survive an ambulance crash. You can help by carefully reading the ATS Task Force position paper, writing to your lawmakers and sending your concerns directly to the NTSB. We need your help.
JEMS.com Editor_s Note: For more on theAntwerp,Ohio crash, read the PWW Legal Corner article"Ambulance Accidents - When Will We Wake Up."
Learn more from Keith Griffiths at the EMS Today Conference & Expo, March 2Ï6 in Baltimore.