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The Yellow Dot and the Golden Hour

Thumbnail image for yellowdot.jpgIn the moments after a serious car crash EMTs face a huge dilemma: Treat you without knowing anything about you, or waste precious time tracking down your medical history.

In the lingo of first responders, the “Golden Hour” is the time period lasting from a few minutes to several hours after a car crash when there is the greatest chance that prompt medical treatment will prevent death. During that time, the life of an unconscious, unresponsive or confused crash victim hangs in the balance. Now there is an easy and effective way to make the best use of the golden hour.

The Yellow Dot Program, which started in southern Maine in October 2012, is part of a nationwide push to help first responders get critical medical history information about crash victims on the scene. A bright yellow sticker (the Yellow Dot) placed on the rear window of a car alerts EMTs to look in the glove compartment for a yellow plastic sleeve that has a picture, identify, emergency contacts, life-saving medications, such as insulin or coumadin, and serious medical conditions an EMT would need to know to avoid making a bad situation worse.

Crash victims with pacemakers, diabetics, people with allergies to medications and a host of medical conditions are at serious risk of dying before making it to the hospital if the first responder provides treatment that is contraindicated for the victim’s condition.

According to the Maine’s Bureau of Highway Safety, there are more than 775 serious car accidents on Maine roads each year. Time and time again, first responders have wasted valuable treatment time trying to identify the driver and family members in a crash, looking for a wallet or cellphone thrown from the vehicle on impact. The need to find an emergency contact who would know something about the victim’s medical history-a reliable relative or friend- is a paramount duty of the first police officer, ambulance worker or other first responder.

Even in a crash that doesn’t seem severe, those involved in the accident may be stunned or “in shock” and unable to accurately convey their condition to first responders.

The Yellow Dot Program eliminates the medical history guesswork at the crash scene, and frees the EMTs to do the work they are trained to do: evaluate the victim’s condition, give life-saving treatment, stabilize the injured and transport them to the closest hospital.

The program is completely private and voluntary. The information isn’t put into any database anywhere, and never goes beyond the glove compartment.

If you, or a loved one suffers from a serious condition that could be affected by medicine and treatment that EMTs usually administer, contact your local police or ambulance association and ask whether your community has a Yellow Dot Program. If it does–participate! If it doesn’t-find out how to gather support for this terrific, life-saving program.