The EMS Safety Subcommittee was established under the auspices of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Science, Medicine and Engineering. Its primary goals of are two-fold—to enhance and encourage quality research on EMS safety issues and to share the resulting information with the many elements that make up the EMS system. The subcommittee is chaired by longtime EMS safety advocate Nadine Levick, MD, and membership is open to anyone with an interest in EMS safety research and innovation. Participants in this year’s meeting included representatives from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Transportation Safety Board, the National Association of State EMS Officials and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT), as well as active EMS providers, educators, agency heads and private research organizations with an interest in EMS.
Although a number of independent EMS research projects have been or are currently being conducted, many are either difficult or impossible to locate. This often results in duplication of effort. One of the committee’s goals is to make EMS safety research available to those who need it, and the group discussed a particularly useful tool, the Transportation Research Information Services database, the world’s largest and most comprehensive online database of published and ongoing transportation research. It can be accessed through the TRB homepage (www.TRB.org), as can the organization’s Research in Progress database, which provides access to more than 9,500 descriptions of current or recently completed transportation research projects from federal and state transportation agencies, universities and international organizations.
On the meeting agenda were updates on several EMS safety-related projects.
TIM network: This group focuses on Traffic Incident Management strategies with three basic goals: 1) responder safety, 2) safe, quick clearance and 3) prompt, reliable interoperable incident communications. Its aims revolve around cooperation and collaboration among the various entities involved in the management of traffic incidents, including EMS, police, fire, dispatch and towing concerns. Membership is open, and more information is available on the group’s website (www.timnetwork.org).
NIST-DHS project: The National Institute of Safety and Technology (www.NIST.gov) and the Department of Homeland Security are working with National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to aid in the development of standards for the design of patient compartments in ambulances, and recently conducted a survey of field practitioners and managers regarding the safety issues that need to be addressed.
EMS Culture of Safety Project: A three-year cooperative agreement between NHTSA, with support from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s EMS for Children Program, and the American College of Emergency Physicians has brought together representatives from national EMS and fire organizations to develop a national EMS “Culture of Safety” Strategy. A second draft of the document is available on the group’s website (www.emscultureofsafety.org), and EMS providers are encouraged to review the document and provide comments.
NAEMT EMS Safety Course: This program was rolled out at the EMS Today Conference & Exposition in March 2011, and has educated nearly 1,000 EMS providers in 30 states at all levels in the concepts of EMS safety. It was recently adopted by the Japanese Paramedic Association, and several other countries are in the process of adding it to their educational programs. NAEMT’s goals for 2012 include instituting courses in the remaining 20 states and continuing to update the course with new information as it becomes available. Details on the course and how to bring one to your location are available at the NAEMT website (www.naemt.org).
The meeting concluded with presentations on current safety innovations.
Telematicus: This is a vehicle management and monitoring system that, rather than relying on special hardware within the vehicle, links a smartphone with the vehicle’s “black box” software to provide information to EMS managers and feedback to the drivers. The application works on ALL current smartphone platforms, using the phone’s GPS capability to monitor location and speed, and can combine with the vehicle’s technology to monitor braking and acceleration. It can also be designed to incorporate vehicle checklists. The firm is based in England, but provides service throughout the world, including several agencies within the United States. More information is available at www.telematicus.co.uk.
Acetech: This is another vehicle monitoring system that provides constant, real-time information and control for a wide range of data points including vehicle status and location, equipment location, driving behavior, occupant restraint status, engine status and fuel consumption. It is a division of Ferno, and more information is available at www.FernoAcetech.com.
A human factors presentation was prepared by ergonomist Chris Fitzgerald, and described a systematic approach to designing ambulances around people, using innovative technology to measure the effects of lifting and carrying patients, accessing on-board equipment, and a host of other human factors to identify the safest and most effective methods to provide emergency patient care.
Fleet design innovation included ambulances designed for Careflite EMS in Dallas, which were designed in conjunction with Fitzgerald’s research and that of several other associates and the EMS Safety Foundation. The design is based on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis, and features forward-facing attendant seats, clear overhead areas to minimize the chance of the EMT striking his or her head, ergonomically efficient equipment storage, and a low loading height to minimize back strain. Also presented was an innovative ambulance design from the Oslo University which is currently being used in several European countries.
As the meeting drew to a close, the participants discussed ways to facilitate the sharing of information among the many and varied elements that make up the EMS system. On Feb. 29, many of these ideas will be presented at the Transportation Research Board “EMS Safety, Systems, Strategies and Solutions Summit” in Washington, D.C.. JEMS Editor-in-Chief A.J. Heightman, MPA, EMT-P, will be providing the opening address via satellite from the EMS Today Conference & Exposition in Baltimore. For more information on this event, the EMS Safety Foundation, and the Transportation Research Board, go to www.emssafetyfoundation.com.