VALATIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Lights and sirens have been a standard feature on emergency vehicles, including ambulances, for decades. But, are they always needed when responding to incidents? One rescue squad in Columbia County is going to find out by limiting their use for most calls.

“Is there time savings and does it benefit patient outcomes? You can see in the position paper that we based a majority of our decision making on that its [patient outcome] negligible at times,” says Steve Meehan, operations manager for the Valatie Rescue Squad in Columbia County.

According to a report penned by around thirteen national EMS agencies, the average time saved by the usage of lights and sirens ranges from 42 seconds to around 3.8 minutes. At the same time, their usage also increases the risk of an accident by about 50 percent according to the report.

Meehan says Valatie Rescue Squad’s new policy is all about safety for the crew, patient and public. “It’s better for us to make sure we are getting to the scene and able to provide that care rather than God forbid us get into an accident on our way to an emergency call.”

Lights and sirens are used in around 74 percent of EMS responses in the country, but less than 10 percent of the time those responses are for something life threatening. “The policy itself was not meant to tie the hands of the clinicians in the back of the ambulance. If an EMT or a medic that is caring for a patient feels the lights and sirens are necessary in a particular scenario, they have the ability to do that,” Meehan explains.