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Ambulance Service Deployment Best Practices Brian Dziuk | Apr 30, 2020 11:00:00 AM

Emergency services are constantly pressured to cover large areas with limited resources—knowing that lives are on the line. Ambulance services are especially critical for providing life-saving first aid to people while safely transporting them to a hospital for emergency care.

However, obstacles like bad city traffic, confusing road layouts, and limited availability of ambulance teams can make it difficult to save everyone who needs help. Emergency services need to be resource-efficient. To help improve emergency response, here are a few ambulance best practices to keep your health transportation fleet where they need to be.

Optimizing Ambulance Maintenance

Vehicle maintenance is crucial for any emergency services fleet. Without maintenance, vehicles may break down on the road. Obviously, this would be bad for anyone being transported during an emergency.

So, one of the most important ambulance best practices to follow is to ensure that all ambulances receive regular preventative maintenance. There are several reasons why your medical transportation fleet should use a preventative maintenance plan, including:

  1. Extending the Lifespan of Ambulances. Fixing smaller problems before they can become critical issues helps to reduce wear and tear as a whole—extending the useful life of the ambulance.
  2. Reducing Your Fuel Costs. Well-maintained engines and fuel systems are more efficient and have fewer leaks. This contributes to improved fuel efficiency.
  3. Minimizing Repair Expenses. Fixing smaller issues proactively is typically far less expensive than major repairs. You can also avoid towing and extra service fees for recovering broken-down ambulances from the roadside.
  4. Improving Safety for Ambulance Teams and Patients. Sudden failures of crucial ambulance components can be extremely dangerous—even at low speeds. Preventative maintenance helps avoid unexpected failures so ambulances are safer to ride in.

Using Traffic Monitoring to Avoid Jams

One of the biggest obstacles to ambulances arriving to emergency response calls in a timely manner is traffic. Although vehicles are supposed to make room for ambulances and other emergency vehicles with active sirens and lights, there are occasions where there just isn’t room for a vehicle to move—especially on narrow city streets.

Using GPS for ambulances, it’s possible to use an integrated traffic monitoring solution and use that to improve route planning for ambulances. Being able to guide emergency service teams around major roadblocks helps ambulances arrive at the scene faster and get patients to emergency care quicker. This, in turn, can help improve survival rates.

For example, according to data cited by Heart.org, for heart attack victims, “The death rate was 3.6 percent for patients in the ED 30 minutes or less” while “The death rate increased to 7.0 percent for patients waiting in the ED 30-45 minutes” and “Those waiting in the ED longer than 45 minutes had a 10.8 percent death rate.” This demonstrates a strong correlation between waiting time for treatment and survival rate.

Enforcing Safe Travel Speeds for Emergency Services

Because time is such an enormous factor in determining patient survival rates, there is a strong temptation for ambulance drivers to go too fast when transporting someone to critical care. However, high driving speeds can actually put patients at an increased risk of injury or death.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2017, speeding was a major factor in 9,717 traffic fatalities—roughly 26% of all traffic fatalities that year. Vehicles traveling at high speeds are harder to control, and slight deformities in the road have a larger impact on fast-moving vehicles than slower-moving ones. Also, higher speeds may mean needing to hit the brakes harder, which can cause people and equipment to scatter around the back of the ambulance.

So, it’s best to enforce a safe travel speed for ambulances in the field—especially when they’re carrying critical condition patients. While training is very helpful for getting drivers in the habit of keeping to strict speed limits, you may need to provide some additional controls to prevent problems in the heat of the moment.

One way to enforce safe travel speeds is by using a speed limiter device on ambulances. These devices can keep the ambulance from going above a set safety limit. However, this might not be ideal for ambulances traveling to the scene of an emergency.

Another tool for enforcing safe driving speeds would be GPS for ambulances. With GPS tracking, dispatchers can monitor an ambulance’s speed—allowing them to send reminders when drivers are going too fast. Additionally, you could track all of a paramedic’s driving habits and provide feedback at set intervals to curtail bad driving habits.

These are just a few ambulance best practices that you could use to improve service coverage and reduce risks. Need more help tracking ambulances in the field? Reach out to Rastrac to discuss how you can use GPS tracking systems to make ambulances safer.

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