If we are going to die at work, it’s most likely going to be in an ambulance accident. At least that’s what’s pounded into our heads at our fire department. We have trainings about driver safety. We watch YouTube videos of ambulance crashes–both out in the real world and those involving crash test dummies. (I’d post links to some, but I have dial up internet…Sorry. If you’re that curious, you’re just going to have to YouTube it yourself.)
At these trainings, we are told that a good deal of these accidents happen when the ambulance is going lights and sirens. Your adrenaline is going. You’re probably breaking traffic laws–including breaking the speed limit. It all adds up to what could be a disastrous situation. This is why we are discouraged from using lights and sirens unless we feel the benefit to the patient strongly outweighs the risk to ourselves and our fellow motorists. It’s where that whole “driving with due regard” thing comes into play.
Our 911 calls are usually dispatched at one of six levels: Omega, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, and Echo. Omega level calls are basically for extremely stable patients, primarily for lift assists with no transport or injury. Echo level calls are for cardiac arrests, or those who are at an extremely high risk for going into cardiac arrest prior to ambulance arrival. And everything else gets assigned a letter somewhere in between. We never run lights or sirens to omega level calls. We always run lights to echo calls. Everything in between is at the discretion of those in the ambulance. We tend to run with lights and sirens while responding to calls. However, we don’t break the speed limit by more than 10 mph. Considering most of our roads are country highways and smaller roads, we don’t really navigate complex traffic patterns. Our roads don’t have all that much traffic on them either.
We almost never use sirens when transporting the patient to the hospital. We are strongly discouraged to use lights and sirens while transporting the patient, unless they are very very sick.
So I ask you, what is your department policy on using the lights and sirens? Do you follow it? Do you have your own rules, perhaps above and beyond the policy of your employer? What are your thoughts and feelings on the matter?