EVOC: What I learned and what it means to you.

Well, friends, I am in my second week of orientation and we have just finished up our drivers training lectures (EVOC: Emergency Vehicle Operations Center, Civilian Defensive Driving Course). All the info we were given over the past few days got me to thinking that if I didn't know some of this stuff (and I'm a "professional"), you didn't know either. So here are some things I feel you need to know when sharing the road with emergency vehicles.

While riding in or driving an ambulance (not to mention the countless times I've witness it from my own car), it has become apparent that people have absolutely NO IDEA how to behave when an ambulance is going code 3 in front of or behind them (Code 3: lights and sirens). Something about the lights and sirens must flip the Dumbass Switch in peoples brains and they turn into even bigger fools than they were before.

Now, the drivers of these emergency vehicles (fire trucks, ambulances, police cars) are WELL aware that nothing brings out stupid faster than going code 3. But it's the law, people. At some point, all drivers on the road have had to prove that they know what they're doing (though this is just an assumption...). Most people know to pull to the right, but some don't (due to panic, ignorance or simply not paying attention, I don't know). 

So let's get some things straight. We'll start by looking at some state laws. (It gets a little technical, so if you want, scroll to the bottom for some scenarios and Do's and Don'ts. For even less reading, just read my cliff notes section)

CVC 21806 says:
  • Pull over to the RIGHT of any street or highway, clear of any intersection, and remain stopped there until the emergency vehicle has passed
CVC 21706 says:
  •  Stay back 300 feet from any vehicle going code 3.
CVC 21055 says:
  • The driver of an emergency vehicle has a different set of rules providing they are driving to an emergency with their lights and sirens on
 Now, operators of emergency vehicles have been educated in these rules and we are expected to follow them. For example (specifically at AMR):
  • We have different siren sounds for crossing an intersection
  • We must drive no faster than 10 mph above the posted speed limit (and never faster than 75 mph on the freeway)
  • We must exercise Due Regard - the idea that a reasonably careful person, performing similar duties, under similar circumstances with similar training would act in the same manner. We must continually exercise this, as well as give other drivers the opportunity to get out of the way.
Now that all that dry, boring LAW stuff is done, let's get down to it.

Scenario #1:
You are traveling on a surface street, approaching a red light. All lanes are filled with cars, even the left turn lane. You hear sirens, look in your rear view mirror and see flashing lights on an ambulance. As it gets closer and closer, you notice that it has stopped about 100 feet behind you and it has turned it's lights and sirens off. What do you do?
  • DON'T:
    •  Panic. This is not your emergency. Do not freak out. Take a deep breath.
    • Assume they were canceled and ignore that they're there.
  • DO
    • When the light turns green, safely make your way across the intersection, being mindful of the other drivers around you (remember, lights and sirens make bad drivers even worse). If the ambulance is continuing on to their call, once they have crossed the intersection, they will resume their code 3 driving. At this point, pull over to the right, SAFELY.
Scenario #2:
You are traveling on a surface street, approaching a green light and your plans are to make a left hand turn. You look up and find an ambulance sitting on your tail, lights and sirens blaring. What do you do?
  • DON'T
    • Stop your car right where it is.
    • Continue on your way into the left turn lane
  • DO
    • Pull to the right when it is safe. I'm sorry you're going to have to miss your turn at this light, but you can make a u-turn at the next one. It is the law to pull to the right. Not all 911 calls can truly be considered an emergency, but every now and then, 30 seconds means life or death. And when it's your mother with chest pain, your child who fell in the pool and isn't breathing, or your dad who fell off a ladder or the roof, you better fucking believe 30 seconds of waiting will feel like forever.
Scenario #3:
You're on the freeway in the carpool lane when an ambulance comes up behind you with their lights and sirens going. What do you do?
  • DON'T
    • Stop in the carpool lane.
  • DO
    • Get over when safe. You are allowed by law to cross over the double yellow line of the carpool lane with an emergency vehicle is requesting right of way with lights and sirens.
Scenario #4:
You're on the freeway sitting in traffic and you see an ambulance with lights and sirens driving along the right shoulder. What do you do?
  • DON'T
    • Pull onto the right shoulder, blocking the ambulance.
  • DO
    • Continue driving safely, being aware of the ambulance. Stay in your lane.
    • If the ambulance requests entrance into your lane, slow your vehicle and let them in. DO NOT FOLLOW THEM CLOSELY.

Below, find a summarized version of all the crap I said earlier.

Cliff Notes:

1) Get out of the freaking way. Pull to the right then wait for the ambulance to pass.
2) DO NOT FOLLOW THE AMBULANCE. Stay 300 feet back. You don't know where we're going, you don't know how we plan to get there. Don't assume anything. Even other emergency vehicles are supposed to stay 100-150 feet back whether or not they're going to the same call.
3) Pull your head out of your ass and drive like you know how to.
4) Wear your seat belt. CORRECTLY.

According to the Fire Protection Research Foundation, in 2009 out of 1416 accidents involving ambulances, there were 16 fatalities (I believe this is from information collected from 31 states). Intersections are the most dangerous places for any vehicle, especially an emergency vehicle responding to a call.

Please, please, please be aware of your surroundings. Do not run red lights or stop signs. Do not gun it as soon as the light turns green. Take a second to clear the intersection before you enter into it.

The last thing I want to happen is have myself, one of my coworkers or a friend/family member die from something that could've been prevented.

Sigh... Time to study all the stuff I just wrote about. :) Blogging: procrastination at it's finest.

It's go time!

Just a little update:

AMR Riverside called :) I start Monday with orientation in Rancho Cucamonga and then field training shifts in an unknown location.

This past week has been awfully crazy! I only had a few days to get everything together for AMR HR and part of that time I was in the desert on a shooting trip!! (And holy hell was THAT fun! I've got all sorts of bruises from firing the different guns).

As I was driving around yesterday in Riverside and Rancho (lotssssss of paperwork, physical, drug test, lift test), I was reminded of how smoggy it is up there! I couldn't see the mountains this time, but I figure the Santa Ana's will blow all that away ;)

A friend asked me if I was nervous to finally start and I realized I am! I'm not nervous about the actual job, I'm nervous about the people I'll be working with. The fire crews, my partners, my coworkers and supervisors. I was reminded that all I need to do is be respectful and confident and I'll be fine. Easier said than done, but it can be done!

It caught me off guard yesterday when I signed my last paper for AMR and it hit me that I AM a paramedic! An employed one! This is the start of a career. Health benefits, a 401k. What?! When did I become a freaking grown up?!

It's true what they say. Today is the first day of the rest of your life! The possibilities are endless and I'm so excited to see where life leads me :)