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You may have seen an Ambulance responding with red lights and sirens through traffic and all of a sudden they switch them both off and continue driving normally… Please remember we are NOT allowed to misuse lights and sirens (l and s). The Control Room can even see if we are responding with certain tracking devices.

There is a multitude of reasons for this. I will try some of the main reasons:

Sometimes another vehicle is closer and our Control Room stands us down (cancels) en route and that other vehicle is then dispatched.

A major problem is also hoax calls which tend to happen on a daily basis. A total waste of resources.

You may see an Ambulance using only its red lights. The main reason for this is, due to as an example; a patient in the back with a medic; the patient suffering from a Cardiac episode; it’s been proven that the sound of the siren ‘excites’ the patient and hence puts unnecessary stress/strain on his/her heart.

Another reason is sometimes the Control Room informs the responding Ambulance that for whatever reason the patient has absconded or left via private transport to hospitals and the Ambulance is instructed to stand down.

Sometimes it may seem difficult to move out of the way of a responding Ambulance when you are stationary at a red Traffic Light. Unfortunately, sometimes you have no room to move out of the way; the Ambulance will proceed once they are able to do so. I know in this group people have enquired that they sometimes move out of the way and get ‘flashed’ by a camera. I think the best thing to do is contact your local Traffic Dept for advice. Note the time and the intersection.

If at all possible try to move to the side in order for the emergency vehicle split the lanes. There have been countless times when the driver will gesture me to go around him/her or ‘why can’t the responding Ambulance drive down the yellow line; especially on Highways?’ Debris tends to collect in the yellow lane and may become a danger to responding vehicles and also could ‘kick up’ this debris onto fellow road users or cause a puncture for example.

Ambulances tend to many types of calls and sometimes they get phoned in as a genuine emergency upon arrival, it isn’t but we have to treat every call as an emergency until we get on the scene. The most stressful part of a call is getting to the patient as quickly and safely as possible. If you’ve seen a responding Ambulance drive recklessly please don’t paint us all with the same brush. Take the vehicle number/reg plate and Service name down and report if you deem it necessary.

We do not get ‘lunch breaks’ so when we have a quick break in between calls we grab the opportunity to find food. EMS in general are always busy and can become very stressful but we try our best. Always remember it’s not the crew’s fault for getting to the scene ‘late’. The Control Room will dispatch an Ambulance to a priority Emergency according to the TEWS Triage system. There is also a lot of abuse of the EMS calling for non-type emergencies such as a paper cut on a finger for example. But an Ambulance will be dispatched nonetheless.

It is also strictly forbidden for EMS members to supply any info about a patient. This is patient confidentiality- a policy to protect the injured or sick.

Sadly there have been times when a public member literally refuses to move out of the way of a responding Ambulance; blocking each attempt to go around that public member.

Another no-no is tailgating a responding Ambulance. Tailgating refers to driving ‘slipstream’ through traffic so they don’t sit in traffic. This endangers everyone and is illegal. And also now prevents us from responding properly; we will slack our speed as we now have an added danger to worry about. If we need to suddenly break, the vehicle whether bike or car may hit the back of the Ambulance, which has happened before.

This post is merely to inform the public about a few aspects of the EMS. A platform to educate and Not to bash any Services whether Government or Private. All Medics are trained at institutions registered with HPCSA and we are all one big family. And this family also includes our brothers and sisters in all wings of the Emergency Services too.
Hope this brings a small insight into some aspects of our job.

Alan Rudnicki, ILS



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