Predicting Use of Lights and Siren for Patient Illnesses


Lights and siren are frequently used by Emergency Medical Service (EMS) groups to reduce response times and increase a patient’s chance for survival. However, the use of lights and siren in EMS patient transport has been associated with occasional inappropriate use, higher crash rates involving the ambulance, and a potential “wake effect” increasing crash rates in ambient traffic. This study examines types of patient illnesses and their involvement with either emergency (lights and siren engaged) or non-emergency transport. Patient care records were analyzed from a five-year period from a private medical transportation company. A binary logistic regression model was built to predict the transportation mode (lights and siren or non-emergency-mode) most likely to accompany each unique primary patient illness. Patient illnesses were identified that showed a higher probability of transport using lights and siren. Fifteen illness descriptions were identified from the records as being more likely to result in emergency mode travel, including airway obstruction, altered level of consciousness, breathing problems, cardiac arrest, cardiac symptoms, chest pain, congestive heart failure/pulmonary embolism, heart/cardiac, obstetrics, respiratory arrest, respiratory distress, stroke/cerebrovascular accident, trauma, unconscious, and patients where data was not entered. The patient illnesses associated with lights and siren were not limited to cardiac conditions and symptoms, which suggest that response-time goals based solely on cardiac arrest patients may need to be expanded to include other illnesses such as respiratory conditions. Expanded studies could assess whether or not lights and sirens result in a clinically significant time savings across the spectrum of illnesses that are currently being transported using lights and siren. The list of illnesses identified here as more commonly utilizing lights and siren could be useful to untrained EMS or dispatch workers to assist in minimizing unnecessary emergency mode travel, thereby increasing safety for EMS workers, patients, and the general public.

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J. Mueller and L. Stanley, "Predicting Use of Lights and Siren for Patient Illnesses," Open Journal of Safety Science and Technology, Vol. 3 No. 3, 2013, pp. 63-68. doi: 10.4236/ojsst.2013.33008.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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