What to do when you see an ambulance coming

Werner Vermaak, ER24's Head of Communications explains that most paramedics are skilled in driving, but this does not mean one has to make their job harder than it already is. File photo.

ER24 urges all motorists to be patient and wait when they hear or see an ambulance approach.

According to Kerry Gamble, an Intermediate Life Support (ILS) medic at ER24’s Johannesburg North branch, responding to any emergency is extremely stressful for paramedics.

“You are constantly bombarded with a loud siren noise and adrenaline pumping through your veins. You have to keep the safety of yourself, your crew, your patient and the people around you in mind at all times. You also need to know exactly what your vehicle is capable of in different driving conditions. It is not as easy as getting into a vehicle and starting to drive with lights and sirens.”

She said the last thing paramedics want to have to do is to consider a vehicle tailgating them, and here’s why:

“We had a patient with serious injuries in the back of the ambulance. We were attempting to go through an intersection to get her to hospital as quickly as possible. We were driving through when a gentleman cut us off completely. We stopped to let him go thinking that he might not have seen us.

“We carried on driving behind him and he pulled over letting us pass and then he started following us, down the centre of the two lanes. We carried on going and slowed down as vehicles came towards us. The vehicle behind almost rear-ended us. I’ve previously been in a collision in a similar situation,’ said Kerry.

According to Kerry, this happens often.

“I think initially moving through intersections is a bit of an inconvenience for motorists, especially if they have to wait while the robot is green for them. I do think some see it as a way to skip traffic or to get where they are going faster. Some don’t understand that they are putting our lives, theirs and those of our patients at risk.”

These collisions also take away resources that results in fewer ambulances on the road.

“When vehicles crash into an ambulance after tailgating, the ambulance becomes non-operational. We could be on our way to an emergency, and crashes like these can delay or even prevent us from getting to the scene and providing the necessary help. The whole incident snowballs as we have to stop, assess for injuries, take statements and details, call a local manager and in some cases, have the vehicle towed. All of this results in traffic congestion and may lead to a secondary collision as well,” said Kerry.

Werner Vermaak, ER24’s Head of Communications and an advanced driving course instructor, explains that most paramedics are skilled in driving, but this does not mean one has to make their job harder than it already is.

“ER24 operations personnel are required to undergo a driving test prior to their employment at the company. The company also has its own BERC programme (Basic Emergency Response Course) which is offered in-service. It is essential to teach personnel to respond to emergencies and to keep their surroundings in mind. Often new employees come from a service that used different vehicles or they come straight from university or college and have not received much emergency response training. This course teaches the basics and how to operate emergency vehicles in different scenarios,” said Werner.

What to do when you see an ambulance en route to an emergency:

• Don’t panic

• Give way

• Constantly check your rearview/ side mirrors

• Don’t tailgate

• Be patient

• Check before you cross an intersection even if the light is green for you to go

• Do not blindly move in a direction or slam on brakes

• Observe your surroundings – paramedics do too

• Do not play excessively loud music – this will hamper you from hearing the siren. When you hear a siren, try to determine where it is coming from.

Do you perhaps have more information pertaining to this story? Email us at randfonteinherald@caxton.co.za  (please remember to include your contact details in the email) or phone us on 011 693 3671.

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  AUTHOR
Clinton Botha
Editor

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