Westfield-based IMMI working on safety for first responders
Sometimes even rescuers need rescue. Medics helping victims can easily become victims in their own ambulance, as we saw in the tragic outcome of last weekend's ambulance crash that claimed the lives of two young medics.
"The occupants were thrown around, contacting each other," said Mike Leakey, Vice President at Westfield-based IMMI, a safety products maker.
"Even though they were uninstrumented, you can tell there could have been pretty severe injuries," he says, pointing to crash test dummies used to simulate un-seatbelted emergency workers in simulated ambulance accidents.
The work to safeguard those first responders is happening in Hamilton County with sophisticated crash tests at IMMI's CAPE facility.
A slo-mo demonstration video shows airbags deploying around the simulated medics in the back of a real ambulance when it slams a barrier in a crash test.
Other products developed here could turn up in transportation we may use often.
In the fatal downtown ambulance collision, both medics were reportedly seatbelted in.
In most fatal accidents, though, that's not the case. At least one EMT is often in the back with a patient.
"A majority of the time I'm sitting here," said a Wayne Township paramedic, pointing to a bench seat in the back of his ambulance.
But he also says he sometimes has to move around the vehicle during a run.
"I'll have to reach up there for a bag or I forgot to get something from here," he said, pointing to storage areas on opposite sides of the ambulance.
IMMI is testing new restraints.
"EMTs are really heroes," said Leakey. "At the same time when they're unrestrained they really become a projectile."
He says the challenge now is "how do we put things in the right places so people can reach them? How do we provide a seatbelt system that's easy to use, that's comfortable to use, that doesn't get in the way?"
IMMI works with Horton, an ambulance maker, to protect crews in rollovers - where unrestrained medics are five times as likely to die than to walk away unhurt.
"There's a continuing need to encourage seat belt use in all modes of transportation," Leakey said.
Things like airport shuttles and motorcoaches could be next - with federal regulations on the horizon looking at better seatbelts and other restraints.