EMTs, paramedics know dangers of potholes

Ambulance, pothole damage

Add emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics to the list of folks who know the dangers of potholes.

“Potholes jar everything in the back of the truck and can hinder patient care,” said Brandee Lynn Ockwig, an EMT and volunteer firefighter from Waseca.

Driving and working full-time for an ambulance service in southern Minnesota for 12 years, she knows the perils of potholes first-hand.

“Putting something in an intravenous line or working on the patient is hard enough to do in good conditions, but when you put in the unknown – like a pothole – that’s a challenge.”

In addition to providing basic life support, such as first aid and CPR, EMTs and paramedics perform a wide range of medical procedures while transporting someone to the hospital. They often insert IVs or administer a limited list of medications, such as those used to treat pain or a severe allergic reaction or to save someone suffering a drug overdose. They can also inform the hospital of your condition before arriving at the emergency room.

On the roads, it’s difficult for ambulance drivers – seeking the quickest way possible to an emergency call — to avoid the bumps, let alone pothole-riddled roads.

An ambulance ride can be uncomfortable

According to Minnesota’s Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board, distances for ground-based ambulance services vary from 2 miles in a metro area to as many as 70 miles in northern Minnesota. The average carry distance is 20 miles statewide.

“Potholes are worse than driving on gravel roads and can come out of nowhere, especially at night,” she said.

“You learn which roads are really bad, and you try to give your partner a heads up when you have to swerve or brake, but that doesn’t make it any easier for your passenger,” she said.

It also doesn’t make it any easier on the rig itself. Many ambulances return to the station with bent rims, flat tires, and broken suspensions. It all adds to the cost of operating the ambulance service and, ultimately, your trip to the emergency room.