Weather and Temporal Factors Associated with Use of Emergency Medical Services

Background: Fluctuations in emergency medical services (EMS) responses can have a substantial impact on the ability of agencies to meet resource needs within an EMS system. We aimed to identify weather characteristics as potentially predictable factors associated with EMS responses. Methods: We reviewed hourly counts of scene responses documented by 24 EMS agencies in Western Pennsylvania from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2017 and compared rates of responses to weather characteristics. Responses to counties nonadjacent to the studied weather reporting station and interfacility/scheduled transports were excluded. We identified the mean temperature, meters visibility, dew point, wind speed, total millimeters of precipitation, and presence of rain or snow in 6-hour windows prior to dispatch, in addition to temporal factors of time of day and weekend vs. weekday. Analysis was performed using multivariable linear regression of a negative binomial distribution, reporting incidence rate ratios (IRR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI). Secondary analyses were performed for transports to the hospital and cases involving transports for traumatic complaints and pediatric patients (age <18 years). Results: We included 529,058 responses (54.8% female, mean age 57.2 ± SD 24.7 years). In our multivariable model, responses were associated with (IRR, 95% CI) rain (1.10, 1.08–1.11) snow (1.07, 1.05–1.09), and both rain and snow (1.15, 1.11–1.19). A lower incidence of responses occurred on weekends (0.84, 0.83–0.85) and at night (0.62, 0.61–0.62). Increasing temperature in 5 °C increments was associated with an increase in responses across seasons with an effect that varied between 1.16 (1.15–1.17) in winter to 1.31 (1.28–1.33) in summer. Windy weather was associated with increased responses from light breeze (1.10, 1.09–1.11) to fresh breeze or greater (1.23, 1.16–1.30). Transports occurred in a similar pattern to responses. Trauma transports (n = 64,235) occurred more during weekends (1.04, 1.02–1.06). Pediatric transports (n = 21,880) were not significantly associated with precipitation or season. Conclusion: EMS responses increased with rising temperature and following rain and snow. These findings may assist in planning by EMS agencies and emergency departments to identify periods of greatest resource utilization.