The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) today announced the release of two ambulance safety resources for emergency medical services (EMS) leaders, professionals and organizations nationwide. The documents aim to reduce the injury and fatality rate of EMS personnel. According to data from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the fatality rate of EMS professionals is three times greater than the average in any other occupation.
“In the rush to deliver care and get a patient to the hospital, first responders often place their own safety on the line,” said DHS Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Technology Dr. Robert Griffin. “By developing and releasing these resources, we can address key design concerns and training needs to ensure patients and EMS professionals are transported safely.
The first of the two resources released, the Ambulance Patient Compartment Human Factors Design Guidebook, recommends improved physical design standards. The second resource, the Research Study of Ambulance Operations and Best Practice Considerations for Emergency Medical Services Personnel, addresses operational procedures and practices while operating an ambulance.
To develop design guidelines, S&T coordinated with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to observe EMS professionals in the back of ambulances, specifically looking at the ergonomics of the patient compartment. They worked with EMS providers to determine the safest position for the caregiver and the patient. Additionally, the multi-agency team looked at the safety of the individual aspects of the vehicle in the event of a crash, and developed recommendations for EMS provider and patient restraints, cots and equipment mountings.
Pulling from several existing EMS resources and data, S&T and its partners developed the best practices to give localities a consolidated resource that can inform standard operating procedures and processes that many EMS organizations are lacking.
S&T, NIST and NIOSH also plan to make these resources available to ambulance accreditation bodies such as the National Fire Protection Association and the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services.
Ultimately, the application of these resources at a user level and within guidelines will ensure that EMS response is safer from a design and practices standpoint.