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EMS and Mardi Gras

And the Coconut Law!

EMS patch

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My heroine in Worry Beads is a New Orleans EMS. While she doesn’t respond to an emergency during Mardi Gras in the book, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the special circumstances they encounter during parade season. 

“Signal 24 Parade Route” is code for a medical emergency during a Mardi Gras parade. New Orleans EMS calls double during Mari Gras. And EMS paramedics cruise parade route parameters with ears tuned for Signal 24 calls. 

In 2018, New Orleans EMS responded to over 3,000 calls for help over the 10 days of New Orleans Mardi Gras. They rushed about 1,900 patients to local hospitals. Also, of the 111 people that were treated by the first aid stations and foot patrols provided by The New Orleans Health Department and Medical Reserve Corps and American Red Cross, EMS brought 37 of those patients to the hospital. 

Typically, during the Zulu parade each year, EMS gets a few hit-on-the-head-by-a-coconut calls.

On a legal note, a Louisiana state law protects float riders who hand out coconuts in good faith. When a lady was knocked in the head and rendered unconscious by a bag of plastic Mardi Grass beads that also caused injuries to her eyes, nose, and mouth in 2012, she filed and lost a negligence suit for damages. The appeal court ruling cited the “Mardi Gras immunity statute” sometimes called the Coconut Law. The purpose of the immunity statute was to prevent overextending the practical standard of care to risks the krewes have little or no control over, which aren’t caused by a lack in the normal standard of care.

It Reads:

“Any person who is attending or participating in one of the organized parades of floats or persons listed in Subsection A of this Section, when the parade begins and ends between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 12:00 midnight of the same day, assumes the risk of being struck by any missile whatsoever which has been traditionally thrown, tossed, or hurled by members of the krewe or organization in such parades held prior to the effective date of this Section.  The items shall include but are not limited to beads, cups, coconuts, and doubloons unless said loss or damage was caused by the deliberate and wanton act or gross negligence of said krewe or organization.”

In addition to flying coconut injuries, they’re lots of stomped toes. Also, finger injuries often occur when two people catch the same beads. Eye injuries caused by throws from the floats is another cause of Mardi Gras injury. Though the majority of these eye injuries are minor, about 20% of them turn out to be severe. 

Moreover, for many celebrators, Mari Gras involves a lot of drinking, and people doing stupid things when they’re drunk often results in injuries. 

Some of the more serious injuries occur from parade-goers climbing over metal spiked fences and other barriers. 

Due to required parade rider harnesses, krewe members don’t fall off floats that much anymore, but occasionally masked riders bend over too far and end up dangling against the side of the float. 

Fortunately, most of the injuries are minor. But New Orleans EMS is there to treat and rush those more seriously hurt to the hospital. 

So, if you attend a parade or parades, watch out for flying objects! And I hope you’ll check out Worry Beads!

Perilously yours,


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