Dispatch, we have a problem.
February 10, 2011 7:11 AM   Subscribe

Is there a standard protocol (or best practices) when an emergency responder (PD, FD, EMT) gets into an accident en route to or from a call?

Say an ambulance is responding to a call reporting that someone has had a heart attack, and en route, they hit 1) a car, but there are no injuries; 2) a car and the car's passenger has a non-life threatening injury; 3) a car and there are life threatening injuries; 4) a dog, and it's killed; 5) a kid. Assume in each case that the ambulance and its personnel are shaken, but still able to respond to the original call.

What's the protocol post-crash? Does it vary if the only other ambulance is across town and it's "just" an accident with no life-threatening injuries or "just" a dead dog?

What if the accident is on the way BACK from the call, and they have the heart attack person in the ambulance? If the heart attack person is stable, would they try to squeeze someone else in to take them to the emergency room at the same time?

Is the answer different if the responder is police and the call is a crime in progress? What about FD, which presumably has fewer emergency response vehicles and thus less ability to cover with other responders?

I've always been curious how this is handled. Not particularly interested in the due process / Section 1983 issues (e.g., Medina or whatever is the current authority).
posted by Admiral Haddock to Law & Government (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It would vary from locality to locality, because it would be a function of the local protocols put in place by the EMS director (or equivalent).

In the jurisdiction where I am an EMT, the procedure is as follows (this is quoted chapter and verse from the SOP); note that this applies both to EMS and FD vehicles, but not police:
1. All accidents within the [...] region shall be reported immediately to the Department of Public Safety Communications (DPSC) [N.B. this is "dispatch"], giving a brief description (major or minor accident, personal injuries, if any, etc.) and requesting the necessary equipment and personnel for assistance.

a. DPSC shall notify the staff duty officer, the appropriate deputy chief, battalion chief, the police department of the appropriate jurisdiction, the safety officer, and the immediate supervisor of the driver involved in the accident. If the unit involved is volunteer-owned or the personnel involved are volunteers, DPSC shall notify the shift commander of the volunteer station. The shift commander of the volunteer station shall notify the appropriate volunteer chief.

[... some stuff on accident investigation removed ...]

2. If responding on an emergency call, the vehicle involved in the accident may proceed to the dispatch location, providing a crew member is left at the scene and the vehicle is deemed safe [emph. mine] by the officer-in-charge. The officer-in-charge should consider the following factors in making his or her decision:

[factors are basically severity of the accident, including injuries; whether the unit has the minimum staffing required with one person left at the scene; and whether it's safe to leave one person there like that]
So that is the official answer and procedure. I'm sure there are other SOGs (non-normative) around, and then there are policies at battalion and departmental levels as well.

But essentially, the crux of it is that any accident, which is defined as "any incident in which a moving vehicle that is [used by the department] comes in contact with a person or other object that results in death, personal injury, or property damage regardless of who is hurt; what property is damaged and to what extent; where it occurred; or who is responsible" (so, my reading of that is that it would definitely include a dog that was hit, since a dog is technically property).

In general, my suspicion is that a vehicle on the way TO a call would probably not continue to proceed, because they wouldn't have the minimum staffing level (in many circumstances) if they lose one person to remain there at the scene. On the way FROM a call to the hospital, generally there are extra people (if it's anything life threatening), so it would be easier to leave one or two people and continue on.

I've heard anecdotally that the majority of emergency-vehicle collisions are on the way TO calls rather than from the call to the hospital; there are lots of calls that go out "Priority 1" (lights and sirens, max speed allowed 15MPH over posted limit) but turn into lower-priority calls (no lights/siren, max speed posted limit) from the scene to the hospital, either because the patient is stabilized or because it really wasn't life threatening to begin with.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:53 AM on February 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If our ambulance is involved in an accident involving another vehicle, human being, or large animal (we have cows that get in the way sometimes) we are immediately out of service and will have to request another ambulance, or one mutual aid from another department.

We'll radio county dispatch and let them know what happened, and they'll dispatch the next appropriate resource.
If we're on the way to the hospital, we can't just pick up another patient and continue on - that would be leaving the scene of an accident, which is against the law. Again, we'd have to call for additional resources to tend to the patients.
posted by drstein at 12:48 PM on February 10, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks--that's just the kind of insight I was hoping for!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:35 AM on February 14, 2011

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