Late in the evening on January 10, 2005, a medevac helicopter crashed in the Potomac River off the Maryland coastline, killing two of three crew members on board. It was the most recent event in a sequence of fatal accidents that had afflicted the medical transport community over the preceding 12 months.
In March 2005, under the tutelage of then-president Tom Judge and active consumer medevac advocate Dr. John Wish, the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS) adopted the AAMS Vision Zero Safety Initiative.
Originally modeled after a Swedish road safety principle, the basic concept of Vision Zero remains the same in the AAMS version: to reduce the number of accidents and errors of consequence. AAMS' Vision Zero is expressly designed with relevance to the entire medical transport community, including both air and ground transport, as well as encompassing patient and workplace safety. Vision Zero, at its core, represents a goal that is attainable and applicable to all involved: the reduction and, ultimately, elimination of safety-related accidents.
Initially, Vision Zero focused on higher levels of leadership within the medical transport community by way of white papers and policy recommendations written to stimulate change in safety culture. Then, in 2009, AAMS appointed flight nurse Jonathan Godfrey as the official Vision Zero chairperson. Godfrey was the sole survivor of the Potomac River accident that took the life of his fellow crewmembers. Through his personal and tragic experience, Godfrey brought enormous passion for medical transport safety to the table and sought to expand the initiative’s scope.
Under Godfrey, and with a significant investment by the MedEvac Foundation International, Vision Zero began addressing existing gaps in education and funding that face many medical transport providers. Godfrey strongly believed that one vital way these gaps can be filled is through the sharing of resources that already exist. These resources can be found in every transport program, whether they are in the form of policies, procedures, videos, posters, education outlines, signs or ambulance/aircraft interior or structure designs, and are often created within a single program but never peripherally shared. As a result, transport providers spend their limited time and money on creating these resources for their own, essentially recreating the wheel because they are unaware of, or unable to access, the resources that already exist.
With this knowledge, Vision Zero set out to create the Vision Zero Toolbox. The Toolbox is designed as an online repository where transport-related safety tools can be aggregated in a central location and accessed by those involved in the medical transport community seeking to improve the safety culture within their programs. The Toolbox allows users to submit tools for review and to access other tools in various categories or "drawers." Each tool that is submitted is then reviewed for relevancy, usefulness and timeliness by volunteers from the medical transport community, termed "mechanics."
This Toolbox is particularly useful because it is free and contains a variety of valuable information all in one place. Drawing on the phrase, "safety is not proprietary," Vision Zero seeks to freely share safety resources to benefit the entire medical transport community and the patients it serves. Simply put, improving safety culture can directly result in the reduction of incidents and accidents.
The Vision Zero Toolbox currently has six safety-related drawers. The active collection, review and posting of tools is well underway. Many of the initial tools have been gathered from across the Internet from resources, such as government, that also have open sharing policies. The Toolbox is still in its early stages, however, and Vision Zero continues looking for new ways to expand its efficacy.