BRADENTON, Fla. - With each call, Manatee County EMS prepares for medical emergencies, but getting to each call safely brings its own challenges.
"We always have to have our head on a swivel and [are] prepared for what these drivers are doing," said Deputy Chief Mark Regis.
He knows the danger crews face. He's worked in EMS for 30 years.
“Every day, there’s close calls. There’s red-light runners, there’s people who don’t yield to emergency vehicles," he said.
That's why training is a top priority. It starts in the classroom and ends up on the track.
Crews work with field training officers. They learn to correct mistakes and learn how to avoid them. They navigate cones while testing out different ambulance rigs.
The course is designed to test their driving skills.
Manatee County ambulance drivers take road training courses
"Within the course, it teaches them how the vehicle will maneuver, and speed is not the option. Slow and safe is the way to go," said Deputy Chief Regis.
Once they're cleared to handle calls, a safety device called the LYTX Drive Cam keeps an eye on their driving performance. It's activated once it senses a harsh movement.
"If they break too hard, run over a curve, accelerate too fast, take a corner too fast. These are some bad driving habits that we use, a whole coaching and mentoring to help coach a driver to better habits," said Regis.
It's helped Manatee County reduce accidents involving ambulances while leading to one of the highest safety records in the state.
"You have to be proactive and safe," said paramedic Chris Abraham.
When they're on the road, you can help do your part, too.
"Just be mindful of what’s around you," said Abraham.