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InfoGram

Should the Use of Lights and Sirens Used in EMS Responses Be Reduced?

Posted: April 14, 2022

The National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP) and 13 other emergency medical services- (EMS-) affiliated national agencies say, “Yes.”

In a 4-page joint statement PDF, the NAEMSP and 13 additional sponsoring agencies make several recommendations for safely decreasing the use of lights and sirens.

The recommendations include:

  • Raising awareness among municipal government leaders of the increased risks.
  • Monitoring lights and sirens use to improve understanding of why and when it is being used.
  • Developing protocols for emergency call triage to identify subsets of calls that may warrant use of lights and sirens.

Although EMS lights and sirens have traditionally been used to decrease response times and increase visibility of EMS vehicles, there is evidence showing that use of ambulance lights and sirens significantly increases risk of vehicle crashes.

Study
NEMSIS data

A study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine in 2019 analyzed data from the National EMS Information System (NEMSIS), a national database and standard for collection of patient care information resulting from 911 calls for assistance.

The study found that the likelihood of a vehicle crash during travel to the patient's location (the “response phase”) increased by 50% when lights and sirens were used, compared to when lights and sirens were not used. Additionally, the likelihood of a vehicle crash during the patient transport to the hospital (the “transport phase”) almost tripled when lights and sirens were used.

Find out more
Study
2021 EMS Trend Report

In the 2021 EMS Trend Report from EMS1, many individual EMS responders expressed support for policies or standard operating procedures to reduce lights and sirens use and — in turn — reduce the risk to ambulance occupants, other vehicle occupants and pedestrians.

Find out more

For more information on initiatives to advance ambulance safety, visit the Department of Transportation's Office of EMS website.

This article is based on content in the
April 14, 2022 InfoGram.

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