Committee Set for Next Steps on Rural EMS

The Dec. 19 meeting of the Federal Interagency Committee on Emergency Medical Services will include the final response to NTSB recommendations from the Mexican Hat, Utah crash of a motorcoach in January 2008.

NHTSA announced that the next public meeting of the Federal Interagency Committee on Emergency Medical Services will take place Dec. 19 in Washington, D.C., with an agenda including the final response to NTSB recommendations from the Mexican Hat, Utah crash of a chartered bus in January 2008.

The meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m. EST and end at 4:30 p.m. at the Department of Homeland Security Office of Health Affairs, 1120 Vermont Ave. NW, 4th Floor Conference Room. For more information, contact Drew Dawson, director of NHTSA’s Office of Emergency Medical Services, at 202-366-9966 or Drew.Dawson@dot.gov. Minutes of the meeting will be posted at http://www.ems.gov.

The crash showed the need for a better trauma care system for rural America and also enhanced wireless service along highly traveled rural roads. Descending a steep grade, the bus hit a guardrail and rolled off the highway around 3:15 p.m. while returning some members of a large ski trip group from Telluride, Colo., to Phoenix. Nine of the 52 passengers died, and the others were injured. NTSB concluded the driver's fatigue was the cause; he had inadequate sleep during the trip and used his CPAP machine intermittently, the board found.

Since NTSB issued its recommendations in 2009, the committee has been meeting with several groups as it works to implement the recommendations directed to it: 1) develop a plan by which states and EMS agencies can pursue funding for enhanced wireless coverage that facilitates prompt emergency response on high-risk rural roads, and 2) develop guidelines for EMS response to large-scale rural transportation accidents. NTSB also recommended that NHTSA issue stronger motorcoach passenger protection standards.

The remote location of the bus crash caused responders to travel long distances to and from the scene -- two ambulances traveled 230 miles from Grand Junction, Colo., and three came 117 miles from Moab, Utah. The closest hospital was 75 miles away, in Monticello, Utah, and the nearest trauma center was in Grand Junction.

"Unfortunately, this accidents highlights the obvious limitation of an emergency response system that relies on air transport," NTSB said in some of its May 2009 recommendations. Weather grounded the two helicopters that were requested from Grand Junction and Phoenix, and as a result, transfers to a fixed-wing air ambulance were made in Moab after a 117-mile trip by ground ambulance.

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