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Littlebit66
12-02-2014, 11:29 PM
Hi, as a part of the main plot, I have a father driving with his two teenaged kids when their car is hit by a drunk driver on a busy Chicago street. Both the father and son are in critical condition (the father dies at the hospital and the son ends up paralyzed from the waist down) and the daughter has some serious bruises, seems dazed but will be okay. After the paramedics show up and take them to the emergency room, who would contact the rest of the family at their home? How long would it take for the family to be notified about the accident after the dad and his kids are at the emergency room. How long would it take from the moment the accident occurs to when the victims arrive at the hospital? The accident occurs about 4 miles from the hospital and the story is set in January of 2008. Would there be a difference in time if it happened in the morning, afternoon or evening? Thanks for your help.

Maryn
12-02-2014, 11:49 PM
When our daughter was in a serious accident about an hour from home in 2003, the local police came to our door. Apparently the state police contacted the local PD to have them do a face-to-face notification. The officer was good at what must be an unpleasant aspect of the job, and he reminded us that when we drove out there, to take it easy, because one accident was enough.

He led with the fact that our daughter was not injured. (There was a fatality.) He gave an overview of what had happened, and told us where she was and the name of the person to ask for when we got there.

I can't remember how long after the accident he arrived, but probably about twenty minutes.

Maryn, who spend the next five years being sued, because she owned the car

WeaselFire
12-03-2014, 12:01 AM
Normally, your local police. If you don't live in the jurisdiction of the accident, the responding police will contact the local police for whomever is being notified. One reason you see "the names of the victims are being withheld pending notification" in accident reports on the news. It can take time to track the family down, so use whatever time you need for the story and add a reason. Family was out shopping, etc.

Local officer normally does this face-to-face but it can be a phone call, especially if a victim asks for a family member to be called. So write it however you need your story to play out.

Jeff

asroc
12-03-2014, 12:15 AM
If there is a fatality or a life-threatening injury, the police will usually do it, with a chaplain if they've got one. Otherwise the hospital does it.

With the last question, do you mean how long would the ambulance take?


The officer was good at what must be an unpleasant aspect of the job, [...]

It's one of the most horrible things you have to do. And there's rarely any formal training on how to do it best.

melindamusil
12-03-2014, 12:37 AM
When I was in an accident and seriously injured, my parents were contacted a little over an hour after the accident. That's largely due to how long it took 'em to identify and stabilize me. Once they had my ID, someone from the hospital called my parents. They were told "your daughter has been in an accident. please come to Truman Medical Center." Nothing about how seriously I'd been injured (or if I'd been injured at all). It wasn't until my parents were at the hospital that they were told how bad it was.

Caveats:
-This was in a reasonably urban area.
-Weather was bad and all the cops were out taking care of other accidents/shutting down highways, so they probably couldn't have spared someone to make an in-person visit.

Littlebit66
12-03-2014, 03:13 AM
Thank you everyone. Based on your replies, it sounds like it could either be the police or the hospital that would notify the rest of the family (which in this story it would be the mom, since it would make sense that the daughter, even if she's dazed, would be asking for her and the police could find her mom on the daughter's cell phone).

Melindamusil, what you said about how the hospital notified your parents sounds exactly what a nurse from the hospital said to me when my dad had a fatal heart attack at the nursing home where he was staying. But in this case since it's a major car accident on a busy local street, it would make sense that it would be the police that would be contacting the mom, with either the option of face to face or a phone call.

Would the police be more likely to deliver the news face to face if you live in a small town or if it's in a big city like Chicago, would a phone call be more likely? Neither option really affects the story, I just want to make sure it sounds realistic.

melindamusil
12-03-2014, 03:26 AM
Random thought, Littlebit...
IIRC, many hospitals will at least try to have a chaplain present when they are informing next-of-kin of a death or serious injury. I don't know if one was present in my own situation, and honestly I don't think the presence or absence of a chaplain would seriously affect the believability of a scene... so, totally random thought. :)

Littlebit66
12-03-2014, 03:32 AM
[QUOTE=asroc;9195548]If there is a fatality or a life-threatening injury, the police will usually do it, with a chaplain if they've got one. Otherwise the hospital does it.

With the last question, do you mean how long would the ambulance take?


Yes, how long would it take for the ambulance to pick up the victims from the accident and drive them to the hospital which is about 4 miles away? Would there be a separate ambulance for each victim, or would they take the dad and son first since they're the ones most seriously injured, then the daughter in a second ambulance?

I'm trying to figure out a timeline where the 3 family members are in an accident during the morning rush hour, the mom and older sister are contacted, then older sister contacts her other brother (MC) who working in San Jose California and rushes home to Chicago, arriving late in the afternoon, just before a major snowstorm. It's a 4 hour flight from San Jose to Chicago but with a time difference he would be arriving 6 hours later (giving an extra hour or 2 getting to and from the airports). So if the accident happens around 8:30 a.m. , Chicago family is notified at 9:30 am, MC is notified 10 am(8 am Pacific time) assuming he finds a noon time non-stop flight, he would be arriving about 6 or 7 pm at O'Hare Chicago. Rush hour would be over so he would be arriving at the hospital at about an hour later at about 8 pm.

Littlebit66
12-03-2014, 03:37 AM
Random thought, Littlebit...
IIRC, many hospitals will at least try to have a chaplain present when they are informing next-of-kin of a death or serious injury. I don't know if one was present in my own situation, and honestly I don't think the presence or absence of a chaplain would seriously affect the believability of a scene... so, totally random thought. :)

Thanks, I forgot about this. This would definitely fit into the story since the family (with the exception of MC and older sister) are devout Catholics and the presence of a chaplain would be realistic. I don't remember if there was a priest present at the hospital where they took my dad after he died in the ambulance.

LJD
12-03-2014, 03:45 AM
When my mom died, the detective plus two support workers accompanied my father to tell me. However, the case was rather different from yours in many significant ways...I'm just mentioning it because maybe a crisis worker would accompany the police officer? Not sure.

Littlebit66
12-03-2014, 03:54 AM
Hi LJD, I'm sorry about your mom, I hope this isn't bringing up some bad memories. There could be a social worker present, especially since the mom is having a very hard time dealing with it (it's bringing back some bad memories of when her father died). Would the social worker stay for long if the mom is surrounded by her other family members (her older kids, sister, mom, brothers/mother in law?)

asroc
12-03-2014, 04:24 AM
Yes, how long would it take for the ambulance to pick up the victims from the accident and drive them to the hospital which is about 4 miles away? Would there be a separate ambulance for each victim, or would they take the dad and son first since they're the ones most seriously injured, then the daughter in a second ambulance?

We usually use one ambulance per patient, resources permitting. There are situations where I had two patients in the back, but under regular conditions we only take one, especially if they're seriously injured, since we need the room, the equipment and the manpower. Generally Operations knows how many casualties there are and dispatches accordingly.

As to how long, that's really difficult to say. It depends on how quickly EMS can respond, whether or not the patients have to be extricated from the car, traffic and so on. We try to spend as little time as possible on scene with a critically injured patient, but sometimes you have to wait for a bit while the police secure the scene and the fire department does its thing. Rush hour could be a problem, too. A good EMT knows to avoid the congested areas, but it's unpredictable. Sometimes you avoid the usual morning traffic jam, then get stuck on a side street behind someone's fender bender and thirty seconds later you're boxed in. Even if people were less inclined to ignore lights and siren it can be difficult. Under ideal conditions (EMS close by, no traffic, no lengthy extrication), maybe fifteen minutes minutes overall. I don't know Chicago, though.

Littlebit66
12-03-2014, 04:56 AM
Hi Asroc, thanks for the insiders information. Especially in Chicago and in the area I'm picturing the scene, traffic can be tricky (add in the fact that it's early March with a winter storm moving in) but it's about 5 min away from the Eisenhower expressway with the hospital at the next exit, so could be fast or slow.

Bufty
12-03-2014, 02:25 PM
Do notifying officers still use that dreadfully ambiguous and misleading phrase '... been involved in a fatal accident'?

Deb Kinnard
12-03-2014, 04:49 PM
I work in a large teaching hospital in the Chicago area. From what I've seen on my end, it can take 20-30 minutes for the first responders to get the patients stable enough for the trip. Of course, if there's extrication from the vehicle involved, it can take a lot longer. I've seen the EMS documentation use the term "prolonged extrication" when it takes an hour or more.

Suggest you google "golden hour" of trauma--this may give you a lot more information. Another dandy resource is the book "Body Trauma", written by a writing doctor for novelists.

Andreas_Montoya
12-03-2014, 04:55 PM
Many medics, once the patient is stabilized, look at their cell hone directory for ICE, In Case of Emergency. Everyone should have their emergency contact number in their cell phone.
When I wrecked my Harley an off duty nurse found me first and called my daughter, "I don't know who he is and I don't know who you are, but I just found this man in the middle of the highway. He wrecked his Harley and you are his emergency contact number."

LJD
12-03-2014, 05:47 PM
Hi LJD, I'm sorry about your mom, I hope this isn't bringing up some bad memories. There could be a social worker present, especially since the mom is having a very hard time dealing with it (it's bringing back some bad memories of when her father died). Would the social worker stay for long if the mom is surrounded by her other family members (her older kids, sister, mom, brothers/mother in law?)

I would think this would depend on how the mom's doing, how the family is at comforting her. If the family seems to have it under control, I would think the support worker would leave, unless the family wanted him/her to stay. But all I know is what happened in our case.

My father didn't think the crisis support workers were really necessary. He said the detective was good, and she would have been sufficient. My dad went back to the house with the detective, and the necessary investigation was completed and he made phone calls. I don't know when exactly the support workers showed up. All I know is that they were there when I was told--I was the only one that was told in person, and that was a few hours later. No one but my dad and I said anything, and at one point I said, "Who the hell are these people?" and later made a point of introducing them to my boyfriend (strange the things you bother doing at times like this). They were at my apartment for maybe 15 min, then I left with my father.

Littlebit66
12-03-2014, 06:25 PM
Many thanks to everyone for their advice!

Deb Kinnard
12-04-2014, 02:41 AM
Seconding Andreas's advice always to have I C E numbers in your cell. It stands for "In Case of Emergency" and I made both my daughters input I C E 1 and I C E 2 numbers into their cells. 1 is my husband and 2 is me--just in case one of us is tied up or can't answer the phone.

Make things as easy as possible for first responders, that's my motto.

asroc
12-04-2014, 04:11 AM
While ICE is fundamentally a good idea, EMTs will rarely look for it. Notifying next of kin is not our job and if the patient is in such bad shape he can't give his emergency contact a medic will have other things to do than dig around in the patient's cell phone. Nurses at the hospital are far more likely to take advantage of this than medics.

More importantly, with the rise of smartphones actually finding someone's ICE entry, if any, can be really difficult. Lots of people lock their phones and even if not, there are so many different models and OS varieties that it can take forever to work out just where the app drawer is and where in there the patient keeps his contacts. Plus phones break, they get lost, stolen, their batteries die...

So, if you want to make it easy to find your emergency contact:

a) put that info on your lock screen so people can access it without having to guess your PIN.

b) have a physical backup as well, like a piece of paper in your wallet.

</end PSA. Carry on.>

Maryn
12-04-2014, 05:52 PM
(We've printed vital info--phone numbers, addresses, insurance and medical information--and adjusted the font to make it fit on a credit-card sized printout carried in our wallets for years. Do we get bonus points? Nah, the bonus is never needing it, I guess.)

DeleyanLee
12-04-2014, 07:30 PM
Do notifying officers still use that dreadfully ambiguous and misleading phrase '... been involved in a fatal accident'?

I was at my best friend's house in 2005 when the officers arrived to tell her her husband (a long-haul trucker) had died on the road. (His codriver had lost control of the rig in another state, crashed it through a bunch of stuff before it exploded. They both were killed instantly.) No, they didn't use the phrase "been involved in a fatal accident." Though "fatal accident" was used several times, they didn't play around with the news.

There were two local officers and no support staff. They informed her that there were grief counselors available that could be there within the hour. She agreed they should be called. The officers offered to stay until they arrived, which she refused.

This was in a northern suburb of Detroit, FWIW.

asroc
12-04-2014, 08:20 PM
Do notifying officers still use that dreadfully ambiguous and misleading phrase '... been involved in a fatal accident'?

Well, in America that depends. The experts advise plain language with no euphemisms, but many PDs don't actually train their officers in this.


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Deb Kinnard
12-05-2014, 04:33 AM
It mightn't be EMTs that look for the I C E number -- it may be police department members, or community service officers, or even the ER. I worked reg in an ER and sometimes finding those loved ones' numbers was pure torture (this was before cell phones).

Andreas_Montoya
12-05-2014, 04:39 PM
We had a pretty long transport to the hospital, 1 1/2 hours. So, once the patient was stable, I'd look for an ICE number. This was before most people had smart phones.

Channy
12-06-2014, 05:02 AM
I used to be a delivery driver for work and was in a car accident once. It was in town, and it's a fairly small town too (about 10K in population) so once people saw what'd happened, it took about 15-20 minutes for emergency (ambulance and cops) to arrive before being transported to the hospital. Being in an ambulance before, I'd imagine you'd only fit one person on a cart in one of those.

Once I was there in emerg, the cops came around with my purse they'd collected from the car. They said they called my work on my way to the hospital (which is where my boyfriend worked so he was quite distraught to be told that "She's been in a car accident and has been taken to the hospital" without anything further). I cop stood with me and I was stable enough (just severe amounts of road rash) to talk with, so he asked for my mum's number. She would have been at work, but had just left, so she was on her way home (and we live 25 mins outside of town). So then the cop stuck by while I called my sister, who lives next door, and told her to tell our mum to come back to town to the hospital. I was then able to call my work and speak with my boyfriend and assure him I was fine.

Even though they had my phone (not smart) and could clearly have called my parents (and had already called my work) they were nice and flexible enough for me to play phone tag with everyone.

Sitting in emergency is torture though... Probably an hour before a nurse came by to see me (who got extremely offended when I called him Doctor) and then another hour or so before he came round and checked again.

Moon Daughter
12-08-2014, 01:48 AM
As a 911 operator, I often get calls from hospitals asking us to put a call in for police to have an officer go to a family member's home for a notification. Usually they'll ask for police when they've tried to contact the family via phone and no one answers.