Impeding an emergency vehicle could cost a life

PhotoCredit: Melissa Diaz Hernandez/The Valley Chronicle
While it’s understandable that many of us “have places to go and people to see,” it should be taken into account that obstructing the path of emergency vehicles affects more than just our daily commute time–it affects peoples’ lives.

■ By Olivia Gildea / Reporter

Roughly every one-and-a-half minutes in the United States, someone will suffer from cardiac arrest outside a hospital setting, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Did you know that within these cases, the chance of survival decreases seven to 10 percent every minute without medical assistance, and on average less than 10 percent of patients will survive the trip to the hospital? Did you also know that there is something you can do every day to improve those odds for cardiac patients, as well as any person requiring emergency medical attention?
Failure to yield to emergency vehicles is a traffic violation that not only results in a $490 fine and one point on your driving record, but also impedes on first responders’ ability to respond to calls quickly and effectively, as well as puts them in danger.
While it’s understandable that many of us “have places to go and people to see,” it should be taken into account that obstructing the path of emergency vehicles affects more than just our daily commute time–it affects peoples’ lives.
“First responders will only drive with lights and sirens in an emergency,” said Riverside County Sheriff Lt.Chad Bianco. “It is important for drivers to realize that their failure to yield, by not pulling over and coming to a complete stop, not only creates a hazard for that emergency response vehicle, but also delays the response time to a critical situation.”
California law requires drivers in the path of oncoming emergency vehicles displaying one or more flashing red lights and a siren to immediately pull over to the right-hand edge or curb of the road, clear of any intersections. The same applies for highways, including drivers travelling in the carpool lanes. In the event that you are unable to move to the right edge, it is advised that you stop your vehicle completely and allow for the emergency medical services (EMS) driver to maneuver around you.
According to Hemet Fire Chief Scott Brown, pulling over for emergency vehicles extends to more than saving the lives of cardiac or urgent-care patients. In a letter Brown published on the City of Hemet website, the fire chief explains the importance of speedy response times.
Hemet has a two-part response system. Whenever a 911 call is placed that requires EMS, both firefighters and AMR, our local ambulance service, arrives. Hemet firefighters are trained at the basic level of paramedic training and are the first responders to any call. AMR then arrives on scene with an additional paramedic who will assist the firefighter in caring for the patient, then transport them to the nearest hospital. The firefighter then returns to their station, ready for the next call.
This dual response not only allows for “seamless patient care,” but a quick turnaround for the fire department, which serves a population of over 85,000 within 28 square miles with just four paramedic units. A quick response to an EMS call leads to faster patient care, increasing the odds for that specific patient, as well as the odds of every patient that comes after.
“AMR’s goal for every 911 emergency response is to arrive at the scene of the caller safely so we can care for the patient and in the process keep other drivers safe,” says AMR Operations Manager Jack Hansen. “We appreciate the public’s willingness to abide by traffic laws as it makes a safer response for everyone.”
In the event of a fire, a rapid initial response allows firefighters to contain the fire to its room of origin, put the fire out prior to an explosion, and significantly reduce the rates of injury, death, and property loss. In the event of a crime, immediate police intervention increases the chance of avoiding human injury as well as that of apprehending any wrongdoers.
Nationwide, AMR responds to motor vehicle crashes every four minutes, critical interventions every 10 minutes, and 87 pediatric patients are transported every hour according to their website. In addition to the amount of emergency calls reported daily, this adds up to a lot of emergency vehicles travelling streets and highways. It is well known that Southern California has some of the worst traffic in the nation.
Editor’s Note: Please help support our community and local EMS responders by pulling over to the right-hand side of the road or highway you are travelling on when in the path of oncoming emergency vehicles. The life you save is well worth the extra commute time.

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