Patient care is first and foremost at Brewster Ambulance Service. We invest in the best technology, training, equipment and hire the most experienced people and prepare them for success. EMS is more than providing expert medical care in what can sometimes be critical situations. Providing the right clinical care and expediency with kindness and respect is important, but patient care extends well beyond the hands-on expertise EMS professionals provide.
Driving safely is a key responsibility—and skill requirement—of our EMS team, whether that team member is a chair car driver, an ALS, BLS ambulance driver or a field supervisor or RN unit driver. Even simply driving from home to a base or our Weymouth headquarters requires skill in what is one of the most heavily traveled regions in eastern Massachusetts.
What matters more, when it comes to the actual ambulance, is that these vehicles are transporting patients, EMTs and/or paramedics, and possibly a family member in the patient compartment. Sudden braking, turning or averting a traffic situation can cause patients or EMS workers to be injured in the back of the vehicle.
Driver training is an important part of EMS education, however, many new to EMS do not have the real life experience behind the wheel of a transport vehicle that is critical to keeping patients and workers safe. That's why we have stepped up our efforts to provide more education for every team member who operates an EMS vehicle.
A Culture of Driver Education and Support
At Brewster Ambulance, we have established a robust training program, driver safety committee and driver training school. We have developed strict driving policies and take driver training very seriously, including adding a new driver safety course to our own curriculum. These driver training and accountability programs are designed to prepare our team for diverse driving scenarios, provide them the support and practice to improve their skills, and have an accountability process for all driving incidents.
By instituting best practices, mentorship and ambulance-specific driver training, we can prepare our team to be the safest EMS crews on the road. Our newest driver safety course will be conducted at our Brockton base, and we will also have more driving skills assessments and refreshers occurring more frequently throughout the year.
National Insights for Ambulance Safety
Since 1975 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been collecting data on every fatal crash in the U.S. using the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The NHTSA conducts a nationally-representative sampling of police reported crashes and estimates the number of total crashes resulting in injuries, including those involving ambulances. This includes whether the people killed or injured were passengers or drivers in the ambulances, but the data does not include whether they were patients, providers or neither, such as family members of patients.
The following info graphic illustrates the statistics regarding ambulance crashes:
Ambulance Design and Testing Video Series from NIOSH
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a seven-part video series in May 2017 covering new crash test methods to improve ambulance design and help keep EMS workers and patients safe in the event of a crash. This project was co-funded by the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), and in partnership with other federal agencies and the ambulance manufacturing industry.
The video series highlights the recently published Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) test methods, demonstrations of crash-tested products, and improvements to the design of ambulance patient compartments.
The goal is to evaluate the effectiveness of the ambulance's structural capacity to withstand a variety of crash scenarios. Also evaluated are the patient compartments, restraints and equipment accessibility and storage, the stability of gurneys and jump seats, and harnesses for EMS workers so they can safely engage in patient care in a moving vehicle.
GPS Vehicle Tracking and Driver Training
In 2018, Brewster Ambulance Service installed GPS vehicle tracking devices and software in its entire fleet. The company's investment in this technology is part of an ongoing initiative to improve safety for the driver, EMS team, patient and the patient's family if also riding in the ambulance.
The devices are installed inside the dash of each vehicle and provide a variety of data regarding the vehicle's location, speed and mechanical status among other data such as:
- Vehicle fault diagnostics
- Detailed fuel usage data
- Accident detection and notification
- Vehicle speed monitoring
- In-vehicle driver coaching
- Vehicle harsh driving monitoring
The system also detects mechanical issues and notifies the maintenance crew at Brewster Ambulance that the vehicle needs to be taken off the road and repaired. Keeping vehicles in top operating condition ensures reliable patient transports and allows more vehicles to be in service.
Tracking vehicle performance and collecting driver data will help us learn more ways to reinforce driver safety and create more effective driver accountability. Additionally, ambulance manufacturers are putting more safety features in their new vehicle designs. Chassis have been redesigned to meet higher crash standards and provide more fuel efficiency.
Inside the patient compartment, the orientation of the patient gurney has been redesigned for the medic to have safer access to equipment and the patient during transport, including three-point harness safety restraints. These ergonomic and vehicle safety improvements are going a long way to helping reduce injury to patients and/or medics in the ambulance.
With our efforts toward improving vehicle safety by deploying in-vehicle technology, monitoring crews in the field, increasing accountability, and implementing training and new driver safety programs, Brewster Ambulance will soon lead the state in the safest, most well-prepared ambulance drivers.