The use of emergency lights and sirens by ambulances and their effect on patient outcome and public safety
Murray, Brett Richard
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The use of emergency lights and sirens as warning devices by ambulances is a hotly debated topic within the Emergency Medical Services. For the last few decades, research has shown that lights and sirens have only a minimal effect on time required to transport patients to the hospital, and essentially no positive effect on patient outcome. Meanwhile, thousands of ambulance crashes occur every year (usually during the operation of lights and sirens), and its possible that's tens of thousands of crashes are occurring as a result of a passing ambulance, though not directly involving the ambulance itself. This paper is meant to provide a thorough review of the science behind the use of lights and sirens, the risks they pose to EMS providers, patients, and the public, and strategies to help curb the cost they pose both in dollars and lives. The available literature on this subject all points to the use of lights and sirens being out dated, ineffective, and dangerous, and yet almost nothing has been done to solve the problems they cause. Continued research and development is needed to help make ambulances safer for their occupants, more effective driver training programs need to be offered to EMS providers, and protocols need to be adopted to limit the unnecessary use of L&S.
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