Saved By Zero?

By Staff Writer | October 1, 2005

Under pressure from regulators, the media and themselves, air medical leaders are searching for effective ways to reduce accidents.

When they gather in Austin, Texas this month for the 2005 Air Medical Transport Conference, leaders and front-line personnel from air medical operations will focus on zero.

Confronted with accident totals that brought scrutiny from federal watchdogs and the media and threatened to undermine public confidence in helicopter-based emergency medical services, the board of directors of the Assn. of Air Medical Services decided at that group's annual spring conference last March in Washington to adopt Vision Zero as the safety program of the industry--or community, as some suggest the grouping of operators, employees, vendors and partners should be called.


(AAMS is among the organizers of the Air Medical Transport Conference. Others are the Air Medical Physicians Assn., the Air Medical Safety Advisory Council, the Air and Surface Transportation Nurses Assn., the International Assn. of Flight Paramedics, the National Assn. of Air Medical Communications Specialists and the National EMS Pilots Assn.)

"We said last year that this year's conference was going to be about raising the bar of performance," said Tom Judge, president of AAMS. Vision Zero is one of several initiatives aimed at motivating those in the air medical business to do that.

Vision Zero arose in Sweden in the late 1990s as an attempt to improve road safety in that nation. Its creators set as a long-term road safety goal the elimination of fatal accidents and serious injuries in road traffic. That goal was approved by the Swedish Parliament in 1997 and became the basis for the national "Vision Zero" program.

"It is an image of a desirable future society in which no one would be killed or seriously injured in road traffic," states the Swedish National Road Administration. "We can no longer accept the fact that people are being punished

every year by death or lifelong suffering for having made a simple mistake in traffic.

"Since people sometimes make mistakes," the administration's statement goes on, "it is impossible to prevent traffic accidents altogether. However, it is possible to alleviate the consequences of a collision through roads and vehicles becoming safer. Moreover, the risk can be reduced through greater insight into the importance of safe behaviour in traffic." Today, Sweden is among the countries with the lowest traffic fatalities in relation to its population.

"This is not enough, however," the adminstration writes. "Swedish road safety work is based on a refusal to accept human deaths or lifelong suffering as a result of road traffic."

"Vision Zero"-related education sessions during the conference including one focused on aeronautical decision-making. Sponsored by NEMSPA and presented by Edward Stockhausen of Keystone Helicopter Corp., "There is No Silver Bullet" proposes to explore incident causal factors with the emphasis on aeronautical decision-making. Stockhausen is to compare and contrast how hiring practices, training, policy and procedures, and competition affect the how and why decisions are made at the end user level.

NEMSPA also is sponsoring a "Vision Zero" session on single-pilot IFR operations in EMS, which is to be presented by Scott Tish of CJ Systems Aviation Group, Inc. The purpose of this presentation is to show how an actual IFR flight is conducted, from the request to final patient delivery. "Single pilot IFR operations are becoming more and more prevalent in the AMS field," Tish writes. "As more programs consider a move into the SPIFR arena, certain myths have come to into play concerning SPIFR. This session will show that, when done correctly, SPIFR operations can become a normal part of a program's operations."

FAA representative Brenda Carr will discuss aviation safety management systems and how they allow operators to proactively identify hazards, eliminate or control them, and manage the residual risk in another "Vision Zero" session.

In another one sponsored by NEMSPA, Greg Houska will examine the question, "CRM - Does it Exist?"

Another session of interest, "Safety Officer for Dummies: The Short Course," will be presented by Eileen Frazer of the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems and Ed MacDonald of PHI's Air Evac Services.

Judge said another objective of this year's AMTC conference is to give EMS participants an opportunity "to look at other complex, high-consequence industries."

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