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A medical emergency is a question of when it will occur rather than if. An estimated 750 million passengers are transported each year by charter bus based on numbers from the U.S. Department of Transportation in November 2009. A third of those passengers are senior citizens, says Paul Bourquin, a charter bus industry analyst for Nathan and Associates. Collectively, charter buses travel some 1.9 billion miles each year.
This is perhaps the most critical component of achieving a positive outcome when a medical emergency arises. Having a specific plan of action, basic medical training, and a well-equipped vehicle can mean the difference between life and death when a medical emergency occurs miles from the nearest medical facility.
In a USA Today report, the average nationwide response time for first-responders such as the fire department or an ambulance is 6 to 15 minutes. Linda Ford, an emergency room RN with Mercy Hospital of Bakersfield, Calif., says medical professionals consider the “platinum 10 minutes” and the “golden hour” the benchmarks in survival of a massive heart attack or stroke. Drivers should be taught to follow a sequence of events that includes asking other passengers to assist, especially anyone with medical training who may be on board, and calling 911 for help immediately.
In most cases, when you dial 911, you will reach a law enforcement agency, says Hillary Luff, a 911 dispatcher in the Kern County Emergency Communications Center in California. [Luff is the wife of Jim Luff].
Luff says it is critical to tell the operator that you have a medical emergency as soon as the phone is answered. You will be transferred to a dispatcher who can provide medical instructions while the first responders are en route. Luff says one of the biggest frustrations for 911 operators handling highway emergencies is the lack of awareness by callers of their location.
When stating your location, name the highway, road or street you are on, the direction you are traveling, and the last offramp, mile marker, or other landmark you remember passing. If you know the next offramp or landmark ahead of you, state that information and the fact that you are between the two locations. If you are using a GPS navigation system, provide the coordinates shown by your GPS. Describe your vehicle.
Remember that the dispatcher who answers the phone works with a team of people, and other dispatchers are sending help to you, Luff says. She says many callers get frustrated believing the dispatcher is asking questions instead of sending help. The dispatcher will remain on the phone with you until help arrives, providing you with instructions that must be followed exactly. Do not hang up until you are told to, Luff says.
Reporting Patient Condition
Be prepared to provide as much information as possible about the symptoms of your passenger to determine what type of medical emergency is occurring. This can include the passenger’s approximate age, sex, skin condition such as dry and hot, cold and clammy, turning red or blue. Check to see if the passenger is breathing and has a pulse. See if the passenger is conscious and aware of surroundings or confused and dazed. Luff says reporting these “vital conditions” as soon as possible in the 911 call can help determine what action will be taken. “Never move a patient unless there is an immediate danger to the patient,” Luff says.