It’s Not Complicated


Woman in custody after allegedly stealing and crashing fire department ambulance

A woman allegedly stole an ambulance from outside an Arleta home while Los Angeles Fire Department personnel were inside giving medical aid and later
crashed into two power poles during a police chase before being arrested early Saturday, authorities said.

Desiree Delatorre, 24, was not injured in the collisions and was arrested on suspicion of grand theft auto, Los Angeles police Officer Jenny Houser said

I wonder what a new ambulance costs the taxpayers of Los Angeles? I’m willing to bet that it costs more than a kill switch and extra set of keys.

Fire department personnel emerged from the house in the 15500 block of West Rayen Street about 3:45 a.m. to find the ambulance, which they had left with
its emergency lights still flashing, gone.

That was embarrassing. No doubt incident reports were written. Not to mention the comments by the crews co workers.

Neither Houser nor a fire department spokesman could say whether the keys were left in the ambulance while paramedics were inside the house.

Would anyone in the studio audience venture to guess? Would anyone in the studio audience want to guess whether or not the doors were unlocked?

The woman whose medical distress prompted the ambulance call declined to be taken to the hospital.

The article doesn’t say whether or not the patient made this decision before or after the ambulance went missing.

This seems to becoming more common. I think that two Austin EMS ambulances were stolen over the past couple of months. There really isn’t any excuse for this. The blame may or may not lay entirely with the crews involved.

Here are a couple of things I’d want to know if I were investigating these incidents.

  1. Is there a kill switch installed in the ambulance to prevent theft?
  2. Is there a way to removed the ignition key and keep the engine running?
  3. Is there a SOP requiring that the doors be looked whenever the crew is out of the ambulance?   That would include everywhere except when the ambulance was parked in the station.
  4. How many sets of keys are assigned to each ambulance.

I will not posit that management at my former service was perfect. In fact, in many ways they were pretty dumb. But, we only had a couple of incidents like this during my tenure there and those were both back in the 1980s. The service learned early on that leaving an ambulance unlocked and running was an invitation to disaster. We’ve had kill switches in all of our vehicles since the late 1980s and haven’t had an incident since. We also have a SOP on locking the doors of the ambulance when you’re not actually IN the ambulance.

We also had fleet keying, so that all of our ambulances used one set of keys. That way any department member could move an ambulance in an emergency. Which was actually pretty good planning on management’s part.

That also made it easy to teach a lesson to any recruit that “forgot” to lock his ambulance.

You only have to move someone’s ambulance around the corner and out of site once for them to understand the lesson.

Note that we never, ever, did this when they were on a call and it might put a patient in danger. We were harsh, but we weren’t idiots.

Once again, I’ll state the Second Rule of EMS.

You don’t want a rule named after you.

No boss in history has ever made a new rule because someone did something smart. New rules come about because a person did something dumb.

The corollary to this is that also don’t want a picture of your ambulance all smashed up to be on the front page of your local fish wrapper. Or, the lead story on the local TV news.

Really folks, you just don’t want that.



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After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.


  1. My daugher said there is an SOP requiring that the doors be looked whenever the crew is out of the ambulance everywhere, including parked in the station.

    • We never locked them in the station, because our stations were always locked. We did lock them outside the maintenance garage, because if we left them open out in the lot, the hookers would use them to turn tricks when maintenance was closed. True story.

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