Kokua Line

June Watanabe

Not all calls
by ambulances
require sirens

Question: I live in the Ward/Punchbowl area, where the sirens are constantly wailing. When transporting patients, how many are really life or death, emergency situations in which the ambulances have to turn on their sirens? I really don't think the sirens have to be used in every ambulance call.

Answer: You're right: They don't have to be turned on for every call.

However, the policy of the city Emergency Medical Services Division is to respond to all calls "with all warning devices on," said Donald Gates, assistant chief of the division.

However, once an ambulance crew arrives at the scene of a call and the patient's condition is evaluated -- including any required treatment and communication with the base station physician -- the lead paramedic can then decide whether to use any warning devices in taking the patient to the hospital, he said.

He has no hard statistics on this, but he believes the number of cases in which a siren is required while going to a hospital "is relatively low compared to the responses."

The problem for you is living in an area where there are two major medical centers: The Queen's Medical Center is the only major trauma center in the state, while Straub Clinic & Hospital is the burn center for the state.

"From the east side, from the Windward side and all over Honolulu -- it's all converging" in your area, Gates said of the ambulances. Also, city ambulances respond to about 60,000 calls a year, with "the vast majority" of the patients going to Queen's, he said.


To the driver of an old open-bed truck. About six used car batteries fell out of the back of his truck on Vineyard Boulevard near Zippy's (eastbound) about 8 p.m. July 18. They were scattered across the middle and right lanes, which forced cars to go around them. A man on a bicycle caught up to him to tell him about the mess, but he just shrugged and kept driving on, failing to return. I hope no accidents or damaged cars resulted from this driver's careless and irresponsible attitude. -- A.K.

The deaths last week of police officer Ryan Goto and 10-year-old Alacia Williams after a cardboard box fell off a truck and caused a chain-reaction accident tragically shows what can happen in a situation like that.

If you haven't already, you should contact the Honolulu Police Department with details, plus the license number of the vehicle.

No legal action can be taken because police did not witness the violation, but they can send the owner of the vehicle a warning letter, according to the Honolulu Police Department.

Under state traffic laws, drivers are required to pick up any rubbish, refuse, garbage, trash, tire debris, mufflers, tailpipes or "debris of whatever kind or description" that may fall off their vehicles. If they are unable to do so safely, they are supposed to report the situation "without unnecessary delay" to police.


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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