You’ve got your kit sorted, you’ve established a link with Ambulance Control and are keen to get your first call. What about transport? For many responders, this is an area which has little guidance, and yet it’s often the bit that puts responders at most risk. Driving to an incident requires skill whether it’s with or without emergency lights.
There are several different courses available for “response driving”, but most will draw heavily on the principles of Roadcraft – the driving bible of the police. The essential elements are hazard awareness and making good progress and the principles can be useful to driving in general, whether it’s to pick the kids up from school or on an emergency call. The book is inexpensive and easy to read. Further experience can be gained through completion of advanced driving certificates from bodies such as RoSPA and the Institute of Advanced Motoring. If you are required to use blue lights, you are likely to require a more lengthy training course organised via your local ambulance service.
There are however some key points which may be of interest, especially to new BASICS responders. These are listed below. If you can suggest any more, you can leave a comment.
- Get into the habit of regular car checks. We should really all do this, but do you really check your tyre pressures & oil level, top up your windscreen washer fluid and inspect your lights on a weekly or monthly basis? It’s up to you what schedule you follow, but the more that you get into the habit, the more likely you are to detect any problems early on – and not whilst driving to an incident.
- Think “red mist” before setting off to attend a call. And be very conscious of when the perceived urgency of the call starts to affect your driving.
- Plan your route before leaving. By having a clear driving plan in mind you will make progress more quickly, and focus on driving and not the directions.
- Put your PPE on before setting off – many seasoned responders will confirm that once on scene you can quickly become drawn into the situation and miss the opportunity to don PPE (personal protective equipment) at this point. Wear your jacket, and if going to a road accident or similar, keep your helmet accessible.
- Consider doing an Advanced Driver certificate, for example with IAM or RoSPA. These are all about “making good progress” and you will benefit from having a systematic approach to your driving.
- Learn about limit points and how they can help you to corner safely. If the concept is new, see this article and watch this video.
- Speak a running commentary to yourself whilst driving normally, as this helps to practice advanced driving skills and focus your attention. You’ll find yourself running a similar but internal commentary when tasked to an incident, which also helps improve self-awareness.
- Be aware that sometimes it is safer to switch off your emergency lights if they are making a driver overly nervous or resulting in their driving more erratically. The elderly are particularly at risk of stopping suddenly or making panic manoeuvres that can put you both at risk. Many drivers don’t understand the significance of green lights.
- Learn to overtake confidently using the “triangle method” and practice this when it is safe and effective to do so when driving normally.
- Whilst driving, focus on driving. Don’t get distracted by the call details – instead focus on getting there safely and quickly. Some find it helpful to play relaxing music whilst responding to control the “red mist”.
- Consider ways of making other road users aware of your presence. You may wish to obtain a flashing green light. Blues and sirens are a whole different ball game and need to be discussed with your Ambulance Control. Use of headlights and magnetic strips for your car can also be useful.
- When getting close to the scene, slow down. One way not to arrive on scene, is to collide with other emergency vehicles, or even the crashed vehicles, by not anticipating the scene and turning corners too quickly. It has been done. Think ahead and approach cautiously.
- Be familiar with the “fend off position” and know that this position increases visibility of your warning lights as well as providing physical protection.