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Crashes involving commercial airliners stress emergency medical services (EMS) and rescue operations to performance far in excess of everyday activities, and special adaptations of everyday responses need to be implemented. Fortunately, these events are infrequent and usually do not occur more than once in any location. The responses that occur must be highly coordinated and efficient. Little is known about the responses to such events. This study examines the EMS and rescue responses associated with eight recent crashes involving commercial airliners in the United States.
To identify common factors for which alterations in responses may enhance the survival and decrease the morbidity to victims involved in commercial aviation crashes.
Eight commercial airliner crashes in the United States from 1987 through 1991.
Case review using: 1) press and media accounts; 2) U.S. National Transportation and Safety Board testimony and reports; and 3) structured interviews with airport, fire, EMS, and hospital personnel. Data were collated and common factors identified for the cases. Findings are classified into: 1) conditions at the crash sites; 2) initial responses; 3) scene management; 4) scene status; 5) patient transport; 6) hospital responses; and 7) preplanning exercises.
Common factors that impaired responses for which some remediation is possible include: 1) new methods for training including computerized simulations; 2) improvements in rescue-extrication equipment and supplies; 3) stored caches of EMS equipment and supplies at airports; 4) ambulance transport capabilities; and 5) augmentation of patient transport capabilities.
Many lessons can be learned through structured studies of commercial aircraft crashes. These findings suggest that simple and relatively inexpensive modifications may enhance all levels of emergency response to such events.
In recent years, controversy has surrounded the issue of whether infectious disease should be considered a serious potential consequence of natural disasters. This article contributes to this debate with evidence of a significant outbreak of malaria in Costa Rica's Atlantic region after the 1991 earthquake and subsequent floods.
This study is an epidemiologic investigation of the incidence of malaria for the periods of 22 months before the April 1991 Limon earthquake and for 13 months afterward. Data were obtained from the Costa Rican Ministry of Health's malaria control program.
Some of the cantons in the region experienced increases in the incidence of malaria as high as 1,600% and 4,700% above the average monthly rate for the pre-earthquake period (p ≤0.01). Causal mechanisms are postulated as relating to changes in human behavior (increased exposure to mosquitoes while sleeping outside, and a temporary pause in malaria control activities), changes in the habitat that were beneficial to mosquito breeding (landslide deforestation, river damming, and rerouting), and the floods of August 1991.
It is recommended that there be enhanced awareness of the potential consequences of disaster-wrought environmental changes.
Date of Event: 22 April 1991; Type: Earthquake, 7.4 Richter scale; Location: Costa Rica; Number of deaths and casualties: 54 deaths and 505 moderate to severe injuries.
To document the existence and nature of variation in times to trauma care between urban and rural locations; to assess the impact of identified variations on outcome.
Retrospective case review
Washington state, 1986
Previously unreported definitions of urban and rural location and possibly preventable death were used to conduct a comparative analysis of urban and rural fatalities. Trauma care times in the prehospital and the emergency department (ED) phases of care were abstracted. Their relationships to corresponding crude death rates and possibly preventable death rates also were examined.
Prehospital times averaged two times longer in rural locations than in urban areas. First-physician contact in the ED averaged six times longer in rural locations than in urban settings. Concomitantly, the crude death rate in rural settings was three times that of the urban areas. The overall possibly preventable death rate was double the urban rates in rural incidents. When stratified by phase of care, rate of possibly preventable death showed no urban/rural variation for the prehospital phase, but was three times greater for the ED phase in rural areas than in urban ones.
Trauma care times and adverse outcome appear to be associated. Allocation of resources to decrease length of and geographic variation in time to definitive care, particularly in the ED phase, seems appropriate.
There is reason to believe that traumatic events experienced on the job make emergency medical services (EMS) workers more skeptical about their spiritual beliefs. Little is known about the spiritual lives and experiences of emergency medical technicians (EMTs). No studies have measured the responses of EMTs to the spiritual needs of their patients.
This study investigates whether EMS workers are less spiritual than the average U.S. citizen, and what effect this has on prayer for patients and perceived happiness.
Data were collected in a major metropolitan EMS system from 125 EMTs and paramedics through a questionnaire about their beliefs and behaviors regarding their spirituality. Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients (r) were used to analyze variables. The religious attitudes of EMTs were compared with those of the general population as defined in the Gallup studies.
Ninety-one percent of the EMS workers interviewed and 94% of Gallup's sample of the general population said they believe in God. The findings on other measures in the EMT sample also were very similar to those defined in the general population. Of the EMTs, 60% said they never have doubted the existence of God. Eighty-four percent believe God still works miracles, and 80% of the EMTs believe in life after death. Eighty-seven percent of EMS workers pray; 62 % pray for their patients, and 54% pray for their coworkers. Frequency of church or synagogue attendance is positively and significantly correlated with the degree of perceived life happiness (r = 0.226, p <0.025>0.005). Frequency of prayer also is correlated positively to perceived life happiness (r = 0.182,p<0.025>0.005).
Emergency medical services workers are interested and willing to talk about their spiritual lives. They do have more doubts about the existence of God than does the average civilian, but are just as spiritual. Those EMTs with more active spiritual lives perceive themselves as happier. The majority of EMS workers pray for their patients.
To determine the frequency with which physician, on-line medical direction (OLMD) [direct medical control] of prehospital care results in orders, to describe the nature of these orders, and to measure OLMD time intervals.
Blinded, prospective study.
A university hospital base-station resource center.
Ten emergency physicians, 50 advanced life support providers.
Prehospital treatment was directed by both standing orders and OLMD physician orders. Independent observers recorded event times and the characteristics of OLMD.
Physician orders were given in 47 (19%) of the 245 study cases, and covered a variety of interventions, including many already authorized by standing orders. Mean OLMD radio time was four minutes (245 ± 216 seconds [sec]), and time from beginning of OLMD to hospital arrival averaged 12 minutes (718 ± 439 sec). Mean transport time in this system was 13 minutes.
Despite detailed standing orders, OLMD results in orders for clinical interventions in 19% of cases. On-line medical direction requires about four minutes of physician time per call. This constituted about one-third of the potential field treatment time interval in this system. Thus, OLMD appears to play an important role in providing quality prehospital care.
In large disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, rapid, adequate and documented medical care and distribution of patients are essential.
After a major (magnitude 6.7 Richter scale) earthquake occurred in Southern California, nine disaster medical assistance teams and two Veterans Administration (VA) buses with VA personnel responded to staff four medical stations, 19 disaster-assistance centers, and two mobile vans. All were under the supervision of the medical support unit (MSU) and its supervising officer. This article describes the patient-data collection system used. All facilities used the same patient encounter forms, log sheets, and medical treatment forms. Copies of these records accompanied the patients during every transfer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data classifications were used routinely. The MSU collected these forms twice each day so that all facilities had access to updated patient flow information.
Through the use of these methods, more than 11,000 victims were treated, transferred, and their cases tracked during a 12-day period.
Use of this system by all federal responders to a major disaster area led to organized care for a large number of victims. Factors enhancing this care were the simplicity of the forms, the use of the forms by all federal responders, a central data collection point, and accessibility of the data at a known site available to all agencies every 12 hours.
The organization of hospitals during an external or internal disaster frequently is defined in the required disaster plan. However, the organizational structure is not uniform. This article describes the incident management system (IMS) established for the organization of out-of-hospital disaster responses and suggest a similar system for use in disaster management tvithin hospitals. Adoption of the Hospital Incident Management System (HIMS) not only would provide a powerful framework for all hospital emergency responses, but it also would provide a necessary link to outside agencies.
The proliferation of new medical technology and pharmacology forces the medical community to ensure the efficacy and safety of new drugs and devices before their use in patient care. Although traditional medical practices have a fairly consistent means to achieve this end, prehospital medical practice often does not. In addition, it often appears that the emergency medical services marketplace does not always follow conventional supply/demand and cost/quality paradigms. This article describes a process implemented in Pennsylvania to standardize the mechanism by which new drugs and devices are introduced into prehospital medical practice.
Many emergency medical services (EMS) providers wear badges with their uniforms. This study was undertaken to determine whether emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who wear badges with their uniforms are more likely to be mistaken for law enforcement personnel than are those who do not wear badges.
Emergency medical services providers who wear badges are more likely to be mistaken for law enforcement personnel than are those who do not wear badges.
High school students, college students, civic organizations, and church groups were shown slides of different uniforms and badges/insignia and asked to identify the person portrayed. Responses were categorized as “EMS,” “law enforcement,” or “other.” Frequency of responses for each uniform and insignia were compared with chi-square analysis.
Fifty-nine percent of the uniforms with badges were identified as law enforcement personnel. Only 5.5% of the uniforms with badges were identified as “EMS,” compared with 74% of the uniforms with a Star of Life (p<0.001).
Individuals wearing uniforms with badges are more likely to be identified as law enforcement personnel than are EMS personnel. Emergency medical services providers who do not wish to be mistaken for law enforcement personnel should wear the Star of Life, not a badge, with their uniform.
The restrained (air bag and seatbelt) driver of a vehicle involved in a high-speed motor-vehicle accident sustained a tear of the thoracic aorta with no signs of external injury. Air bag deployment may mask significant internal injury, and a high index of suspicion is warranted in such situations.