The First Few Moments: Making the Scene Safer

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This is a guest post by creator of the First Few Moments training program Kyle David Bates. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

As you roll-up on the scene of a motor vehicle crash you look through your windshield. “Hmm, 2 cars head-on. Driver in car one is moving, one person walking around car two with blood coming from her head, one person lying outside car one. No wires down. No fire. Looks like I should call 2 more ambulances and start caring for the person on the ground.”

We Have All Been There

Have you ever had a similar conversation with yourself? I am sure that we all have, but is this self-interaction often left unfinished? Usually it is as you are interrupted when you let off an explicative or two towards the cars whizzing by leading me to the next question: “Why didn’t you do anything about it?”

Need to Make the Scene Safer

In EMS we are extremely focused upon patient care and assessing the scene for safety, initially, but we are awful at making that scene safe. On average 5 firefighters are killed every year after being struck by a passing vehicle. This number does not take into account EMS-only services nor does it include injuries as the result of being struck.

Establish a TIMA

So again I ask, “Why do we not take the time to make the roadway safe?” In April 2008 the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) put together a comprehensive document entitled Traffic Incident Management Systems that addresses the importance of establishing a traffic incident management area or TIMA. Two years ago this was published yet we still see responders working in roadways with cars whizzing by. Sure, we have our green vests on, which is a start, but we need to take the initiative to establish a safe work zone. Properly placing your vehicles, using cones and flares to guide traffic through the TIMA, decreasing the use of unnecessary lighting at night, proper communication between responders, and the use of flaggers are all part of creating that safer working environment.

Make the Scene Safer

For those of you who are already doing these things, congratulations you are ahead of the game. However don’t become too comfortable within these areas, hence the earlier use of the term safer not safe. Many times vehicle operators ignore these areas, often going around or through these well-established systems. They may do it out of curiosity, ignorance, carelessness, distraction, or the sense that they too can help. Whatever the reason, they still impose a danger to those working within the TIMA. Having a plan to warn responders in the TIMA of just such a breech is vital. Truck or hand-held air horns may work the best as they are instantaneous and do not require the need to get airtime on the radio.

Always Vigilant

As a responder working in the roadway you must be ever vigilant for the potential of this situation. In EMT class we were taught scene safety but that is not enough here. We cannot just assess the scene initially and forget about it, we must be ever constant in assessing the scene, or situation for hazards. We have to be aware; we have to develop a culture of situational awareness, whereby are aware of our surroundings and their potential hazards 360 degrees and 100% of the time.

By changing our mindset, that safety TRULY comes first, we should hopefully see the decrease of responders injured or killed on our highways. The First Few Moments podcast and classroom course address just these topics. You can find out more at www.FirstFewMoments.com.

Kyle David Bates is an enthusiastic educator who brings over two decades of field and flight experience into the classroom. He speaks at EMS conferences throughout the United States and Canada as well as a frequent personality on various EMS podcasts. Kyle is also an author, writing for textbooks and national magazines. What makes Kyle unique is his educational style. Having a formal background in photography and graphic arts as well as education, Kyle delivers interactive and thought provoking presentations and workshops to all audiences.