FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) - As Tim Curry, a paramedic and training officer with the Marion County Rescue Squad, listens for reports over the scanner, he mentally prepares himself for the next call.
It could be a heart attack.
It might be a vehicle accident.
It could even be a call about someone falling.
But when that call comes in, seconds matter.
After running down two flights of stairs and into the agency’s garage, Curry jumps in an ambulance while more information is relayed through a scanner that hangs around his shoulder.
Once the garage doors go up, Curry and an EMT head toward the call.
But even before the challenges of treating a patient can happen, Curry and others who drive ambulances or emergency vehicles must navigate their way through traffic.
The paramedic or EMT who steers the ambulance must have his head on a swivel. With each intersection, the driver looks left, right, straight and continues to use his eyes to make sure it’s safe for the ambulance to get through traffic.
For EMTs and paramedics with the Marion County Rescue Squad, the time it takes to respond to a call can be extended if other motorists don’t allow an ambulance to pass.
Michael Angelucci, the chief of operations with the Marion County Rescue Squad, said EMTs and paramedics get frustrated with other motorists when responding to an emergency call.
Some of those frustrations come from the medical personnel knowing the urgency of the call and mentally preparing themselves for it while having to weave around motorists who are not letting them pass.
Having to wait just 15 seconds to get around a vehicle may mean life or death for some calls, according to Angelucci.
“It’s very frustrating to our crews,” he said. “Seconds count.”
When transporting a patient to the hospital, Angelucci said delayed responses from other motorists can cause delayed patient care.
When an ambulance is approaching with its lights and sirens on, Angelucci said the best thing for a motorist to do is to pull to the right of the road, come to a complete stop and wait for the ambulance to pass before returning to the road.
If that time comes while a vehicle is going through a turn, Angelucci said the vehicle should proceed through the turn and then pull to the right.
“That allows our ambulances and other emergency vehicles to have a clear path to get around those vehicles,” he said.
Curry said over the nine years he’s worked in the field, every year has become more frustrating when it comes to driving an ambulance through traffic.
He said there are more challenges since vehicles are being made to be soundproof from the outside and more people are distracted while driving.
“The radio is turned up, playing on cellphones - there’s just a lot more challenges now than there was 10 or 15 years ago,” Curry said.
When Curry first started, he said drivers would be courteous and aware of what to do when an emergency vehicle was in sight. Now it’s frustration.
“Motorists don’t pull over until we’re right behind them or they try to outrun us,” Curry said. “People aren’t as courteous as they used to be.”
Curry echoed Angelucci, saying seconds and minutes matter when it’s life or death.
“When you’re having a heart attack, time is muscle,” Curry said. “Every minute that you’re not at a cardiac center, your heart’s dying a little more every minute.”
Although there have been times where frustration has set in on EMTs and paramedics while driving an ambulance, Curry said there have been moments when they are grateful to people pulling to the right.
Curry also encouraged motorists to pull to the right and completely stop when an emergency vehicle is approaching with its lights and sirens on.
Information from: Times West Virginian, https://www.timeswv.com
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