NHTSA on ground ambulance crashes and defibrillation electrodes recall

NHTSA has an Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS). It has the following mission statement: “To reduce death and disability by providing leadership and coordination to the EMS community in assessing, planning, developing and promoting comprehensive, evidence-based emergency medical services and 911 systems.” Naturally, the information NHTSA provides is applicable to all aspects of medical transportation.

There was an annual average of 4,500 ambulance crashes between 1992 and 2011. Fortunately, less than 1% resulted in fatalities, but 34% resulted in injury and 65% in property damage.

For the fatality accidents, 58% occurred with EWS (emergency warning systems) activated and 42% were non-emergency. Which party has the highest fatality percentage?

  • 4% ambulance driver
  • 21% ambulance passenger
  • 63% occupant of other vehicle
  • 12% non-occupant

59% of injury accidents were emergency and 34% were non-emergency. We’ll describe the limitations of the data later. Who was hurt the most?

  • 17% ambulance driver
  • 29% ambulance passenger
  • 54% occupant of other vehicle

Now let's talk about the data limitation. We don’t have a central repository for data. Although it’s clear that we are still involved in events creating collateral damage, those of us collecting data don’t use a standardized reporting format. Without good data how can we do anything that is “evidence based”? Here are the limitations of the analysis as described by NHTSA:

  • Only includes crashes that occur on a roadway customarily open to the public
  • Not all vehicle crashes in the country are reported to the police
  • Police may not record ambulances accurately on crash report
  • Does not distinguish between ambulance types
  • Does not determine when the crash occurred (en route to scene or hospital)
  • Does not collect the proportion of time an ambulance is on the road
  • Does not currently differentiate ambulance occupants in the passenger seat or patient compartment of the ambulance

What other information would you like to know to prevent ambulance crashes? We’ve mentioned safety committees, crash investigation teams, incident reporting and near misses in previous articles. Have you done anything to learn from your events? What can you do as a driver to make your service safer?

Medi-Trace and Kendall Multi-function Defibrillation Electrodes by Coviden: Filed Safety Alert-Electrodes Will Not Connect with Philips FR3 or FRx AED unit.

Mismatch of these devices could cause a delay in resuscitation. This delay may have contributed to the death of one patient. It is recommended that Philips FR3 and FRx AED units should only be used with Philips brand electrodes specified in the equipment manual. Remember for the FRx AED unit, the pads must be pre-connected. An alarm will sound if the proper pads are not connected. The FR3 does not require pre-use pad connection. The user will not discover the pad incompatibility until the AED must be used. Review the use of Covidien electrodes at your service and make certain they are not placed with Philips models FR3 and FRx AEDs. For further information, contact Covidien Quality Assurance at 1-800-962-9888.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.

For safety or risk management questions or suggestions, please contact Markel.

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