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Vehicle Accident Scenes Can Be Lethal for First Responders

Vehicle Accident Scenes Can Be Lethal for First Responders

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

It’s often said that driving a car is one of the most dangerous things a person can do. According to an article in USA Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that over 37,000 people died in an auto accident in 2017.

For public safety professionals, working at a traffic accident scene can be equally dangerous. According to a 2011 article in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 45% of emergency medical services (EMS) deaths resulted from highway incidents, mostly due to vehicle collisions. An additional 12% of first responder deaths involved EMS personnel being struck by vehicles.

“Probationary firefighter Steven Pollard, 30 years old, fell Sunday night while crossing a 20-inch gap separating two lanes of a bridge along the Belt Parkway in the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn,” The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month. Pollard and other firefighters were trying to reach injured motorists in a two-car accident.

Pollard’s death serves as a painful reminder of just how dangerous traffic accidents are for public safety professionals trying to assist the injured. However, there will be an incident investigation to understand how this tragedy occurred. The investigation will also determine what steps can be taken to prevent any similar accidents in the future.

Training Programs for First Responders Discuss Safety First

Most training programs for public safety personnel include a discussion about their personal safety at an accident scene. The discussion derives from the notion that no first responder wants to be part of the emergency because it takes far more resources to effectively manage the scene when first responders are also injured there.

Preventing spinoff emergencies is a high priority for those managing 911 incidents. It is one of the reasons why safety is one of the basic tenets of the Incident Command System. It’s the Safety Officer’s role to keep everyone working an accident safe.

Painful Reminders of the Dangers

The dangers associated with working vehicle accidents won’t change, unfortunately, until there are drastic alterations in the general construction of vehicles and roads. But with improved incident management, further tragedies like Pollard’s death may be eliminated.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.