Category Archives: Emergency Medical Services

Improving Traffic Safety for Emergency Responders

The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is an occupational field wrought with opportunities for workers to become ill, injured, or succumb to death while performing the functions of their job (Maguire, Hunting, Smith, & Levick, 2002). In the mid-1980’s, Iglewicz, Rosenman, Iglewicz, O’Leary, and Hockmeier (1984) were among the first to perform research into the occupational health of EMS workers by uncovering unhealthy carbon monoxide levels in the work area. This appears to have been the impetus for further research into uncovering some of the causes and contributing factors of illness and injury incidents, as well as safer alternatives to current work practices.

One of the more recent efforts to protect EMS workers relates to traffic-related injuries and fatalities of EMS workers while responding to calls and working on the scenes of traffic accidents. As important it is for the EMS workers to be able to get to the scene of an emergency and work without threat of injury, the safety of the community is important to consider. Solomon (1990) realized the need to improve safety in this area and recommended changing the paint color of emergency apparatus to more visible lime-green. Emergency workers were continuing to fall victim to “secondary incidents” at roadway scenes (Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association, 1999). An analysis of EMS worker fatalities between 1992 and 1997 reveals an occupational fatality rate that continues to exceed that of the general population (Maguire, Hunting, Smith, & Levick, 2002).

Across the pond, in the United Kingdom, efforts were also underway to improve the visibility of police vehicles by considering various paint design schemes, including the Battenburg design: alternating blocks of contrasting colour (Harrison, 2004). Harrison concluded that the half-Battenburg design showed promise as it increased visibility and recognition of police cars in the United Kingdom, and the United States National Institute of Justice was considering research on the efficacy of the Battenburg design here in the United States to promote officer safety. EMS administrations are known for paying special attention to the bandwagon, that is they frequently make changes based on inconclusive and sporadic evidence. This is the case with recent ambulance designs.

Many ambulances in the New England, as well as other parts of the country, are being designed with the half-Battenburg markings applied to the sides of the vehicles in attempts to improve the safety of EMS workers. Unfortunately, we may find that these markings might have an unintended effect of confusing other drivers and causing more problems. A recent study found that Harrison (2004) was correct in that the Battenburg design assisted British drivers in quickly identifying British police vehicles, but the “effectiveness of the ‘Battenburg’ pattern in the UK appears primarily related to its association with police vehicles in that country” (Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security, 2009, p. 6) having little effect on the recognition potential of American drivers.

Perhaps with the evolving data, we can begin using an evidence-based approach at helping the EMS worker perform his or her job safely at traffic scenes.


Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association. (1999). Protecting Emergency Responders on the Highways: A White Paper. Emmitsburg, MD: United States Fire Administration.

Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security. (2009). Emergency vehicle visibility and conspicuity study [Catalog No. FEMA FA-323]. Emmittsburg, MD: United States Fire Administration.

Harrison, P. (2004). High-conspicuity livery for police vehicles [Publication No. 14/04]. Hertfordshire, U.K.: Home Office, Police Scientific Development Branch. Retrieved from

Iglewicz, R., Rosenman, K.D., Iglewicz, B., O’Leary, K., & Hockmeier, R. (1984). Elevated levels of carbon monoxide in the patient compartment of ambulances. American Journal of Public Health, 74(5).

Maguire, B.J., Hunting, K.L., Smith, G.S., and Levick, N.R. (2002). Occupational fatalities in emergency medical services: A hidden crisis. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 40(6), 625-632. doi: 10.1067/mem.2002.128681

Solomon, S.S. (1990). Lime-yellow color as related to reduction of serious fire apparatus accidents: The case for visibility in emergency vehicle accident avoidance. Journal of the American Optometric Association, 61, 827-831.


Living in such a small community as I do, there is little need for grassroots organizations to assist in the health and welfare of the community. Most of the organizations that are available in my community are business-based, healthcare focused institutions.

Day-Kimball Hospital ( is the center of healthcare and wellness in Northeastern Connecticut. Partnering with the community, Day-Kimball Hospital provides a host of services through its many facilities to provide outreach programs which help to make a healthier community. Employment and volunteer opportunities are available within the hospital for those with a desire to help promote health and wellness within the community.

There are two other local agencies, United Services ( and Quinebaug Valley Youth and Family Services, which have partnered to provide a community-centered approach to the psychological welfare of adults, adolescents, youths, and their families. United Services, Inc. also provides employee assistance programs to workers of participating local businesses. Providing psychiatric consultation services for addiction and recovery, family violence, and family structure support, these agencies promote social change as both entities themselves and through their contact with members of our community.

The town of Killingly, Connecticut, also offers a Little League program where children can learn to play baseball and softball while learning the values of sportsmanship, loyalty, courage, and commitment. This program helps to promote social change through encouraging positive mentor relationships at a young and impressionable age. Little League is also an outlet where interested parties can help through sponsorships, umpiring, coaching, or just attending games and showing support for the program and the kids.

I have volunteered most of my life through the volunteer fire departments in my area, and I still do. I am an active member of the South Killingly Fire Department where I serve as a mentor and instructor in Emergency Medical Services. As an experienced paramedic, the least that I can do for my community is to ensure that those who will come after me are trained appropriately and to a high standard. Though my full-time job requires me to provide the same service in the same area, I enjoy a different role with South Killingly Fire Department which allows me the freedom to help others in a different manner than usual within the same occupational field.

Volunteering with others instills teamwork, dedication, and other core values that lend especially well to the promotion of positive social change. I am glad to help.

Communicate Clearly – Streamlining the Communication Process

In my current profession, I am tasked with responding to disaster areas and treating the afflicted and displaced. I must communicate my intent and direction clearly and with a presence of authority. Understanding the various communication modes and methods that different people utilize and respond to, perhaps across cultures or socio-economic backgrounds, will allow me to streamline my communication processes to directly impact the most people in the most efficient manner possible.

Previously, I stated that I only have one long-term personal goal: leave a positive mark on the society in which I live. My attention to this goal is unwavering and will never change. Technology being what it is today, effortless communications across lines previously drawn is paramount in improving society. I value improving the lives of others: individuals and society as a whole. I feel I have already met the outcome objective of Walden University which is one of the reasons why I chose to enroll here. Apparently, others share many of the same goals.

In college, I have found a chance to interact with a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds without ever really knowing who they are. Not unlike a double-blind study, the results of the discourse are authentic to the environment. I found this to be quite interesting and attempted to hone my communication skills in such ways as to be a benefit for as many of my classmates as possible. I will never know if I have succeeded in this, but I feel the intent and the experience will stay with me far longer than the results. Being able to communicate clearly with yourself, however simple a task that may seem at first, allows one a clearer understanding of one’s needs and allows for the development of a plan for attaining those goals that meet these needs. That is being true to one’s self!

Professional Networks – The Internet, EMS, & Social Media

In the emergency medical service arena, there are a number of online networks designed to provide support for EMS personnel. Most of these networks are listservs or discussion groups aimed at bolstering education and best current practices.

I first started in EMS as a route to become a firefighter, but after working for a short time as an EMT, I decided that I enjoyed the practice of medicine much more than fire suppression. It was about this time that I formed a goal to be the best that I could be in this industry. There is an inherent problem with this: most in EMS feel that they are the best at what they do. I had to figure out a benchmark to compare myself to.

Searching the internet, I found a small group of EMTs, paramedics and physicians who promoted teaching as learning. This group also debated best practices constantly. Most importantly, all were welcome to contribute. Partaking in many discussions over the years has broadened my knowledge and has made me keenly aware of many of the problems facing EMS that I was going to have to deal with. This group has helped me to grow as an EMT, motivated me through my education as a paramedic and instilled in me some of the virtues of being an effective educator and a mentor within the EMS community. This same group has helped turn inexperienced and insecure providers into authors, consultants, researchers, managers, and educators. These truly were the best and the brightest in the field. Many of group participants were only known to me by their email address or the initials with which they signed their posts, but now, after meeting and forming in-person relationships, I count many of them among my friends and colleagues.

This only outlines one of my professional networks. I truly understand the value of professional networking, and I have promoted this within the educational environment in the past. Networking among colleagues, whether professionally or academically, encourages teamwork and collaboration. It also encourages a healthy competitive nature in the participants which translates to more overall growth. In the academic arena, students are able to rely on other students’ expertise in some areas while, at the same time, providing expertise in others.

The new online social networking venues (LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, et al.) appear to be replacing the listservs of old. These applications provide the user a broader, more personal sense of their social and professional network. Opening one’s self up to your colleagues in this manner can only encourage more personal growth and professionalism.

Communication styles – In-person vs. online

Each and every day I am faced with having to effectively communicate with a variety of people, and a communication error on my part can lead to the death or a significant disability of a patient in my care. Complicating the matter, not only do I have to communicate with a variety of people, but I have to communicate with a variety of types of people. This variety creates circumstances where I must alter my communication methods frequently.

As Kathleen Daily Mock, BSN, JD, writes, “By incorporating effective communication techniques into daily patient interactions, clinicians can decrease their malpractice risk. More importantly, clinicians can positively and effectively impact patient health outcomes without increasing the length of visit….” (Physician’s News Digest, Feb. 2001)

To add to that, I must also interact with my co-workers in such ways as to direct the specific care of my patients and maintain a positive and professional working environment. To these ends, I actively look for verbal and non-verbal cues to seek out truth, meaning and understanding. Most perform this skill automatically, or passively, and do not realize it. (“Emotions in Man and Animals”, Darwin, C., 1872)

The use of online communication limits the perception of affect which creates a challenge to both the author and reader. Contemporary convention seems to have changed recently making the use of “emoticons”, or emoting icons, commonly accepted. Though I do not utilize emoticons too often, I do see the validity of their use in attempting to convey the lacking non-verbal cues that we are, perhaps, longing for in daily online communication.

As I have been an active participant in the online community for many years, I feel very confident in my familiarity with “netiquette”, or network etiquette. I am, unfortunately, at a disadvantage in conveying my thoughts to those not as familiar with the use of non-descriptive textual communications. To help counter this, I will assume that all communication directed to me is crafted of the best intention and positive nature.