Lesson Number 1


Think back, if you will, to the first EMT class you ever took. It might have been a few months ago, or for some folks, it might have been 20-30 years ago. Now, think about what they taught you about your own safety, and what is most important when you hit the streets.

Lets take it a step further. Think now about any EMT Practical exam that you’ve taken, whether it be for your EMT-Basic certification right on up to your Paramedic. Lets take the Assessment station. You walk into the station, stethoscope around your neck, with a State or National evaluator sizing you up and staring you down. You look over your station, and indicate you are ready. Your evaluator looks at their sheet of paper, and begins reading the same scenario that the person before you most likely just heard.

It could be a car accident, a shooting, or something as routine as a fall, abdominal pain or a chest pain call. Regardless of what the nature of the “call” is, you take the information in, and start your station the same way. “Scene safety, BSI, number of patients.” You might use different terms depending on where you’re at, but the intention is always the same: Is the scene safe for my partner and I to enter? Do I have the necessary protective equipment on? Do I have the resources I need initially to handle this incident?

Now, keep that in mind, and read this article that has made its way around the internet:

http://www.wlbt.com/Global/story.asp?S=13191657

Take a moment to compose yourself, pick your jaw up off the floor and stop screaming at your computer.

I’m sure you’ve already asked out loud, “What is this guy’s problem?” AMR has not written a policy that needs to be changed, the responding crew followed their training perfectly, and did the right thing by not putting themselves in a dangerous situation. If any other Ambulance service, Private, 3rd Service, or Fire based told their crew to just rush in there, I’d question their devotion to their Field Employees.

Tim Noonan over at RogueMedic.com has said it better than I could have. The blame here has been misplaced. The disconnect here isn’t with the EMS Responders. Where were the police? Why did it take them twenty minutes to get there, and what would you have expected these EMTs to do with a potentially hazardous scene for twenty minutes all alone?

I’ve worked in an urban setting for the last ten years of my EMS career and I feel very fortunate. When we have acts of violence, there is usually a prompt, sizeable response from the Police Department, but there are still those occasions when EMS might be the first ones there. I was a Field Training Officer before my promotion five years ago to a Supervisory role, and my advise has always been the same to those that I’ve either trained, or who work under me:

1. If you’re getting close to the scene and you’re not certain that PD is on scene, call and get an ETA.
2. If you can’t be provided one, its longer than you’re comfortable with, or you’re getting too close to the scene, shut down your lights and find a safe place to stage that is at least a block or two away and out of sight of the scene.
3. When you see the cruisers, give them a few seconds to get in there and get situated. Just because they’ve arrived, it doesn’t mean that the scene is immediately secured.
4. Document your patient contact time accurately. Make sure you know the time that Police arrived. If you have to, call over the air and have the time noted in the CAD so that you can later go back and document it in your Patient Care Report.

The message from that advice is simple: Put your safety and the safety of that person next to you above everything else. To a Non-EMS reader of this Blog, that might seem a bit selfish, but when the rescuer becomes a patient, then who helps the rescuer? The first thing that we are taught in our training is that at the end of the day, we are supposed to go home to our loved ones with just as many holes in our body as we had at the start of our shift.

We could rant and rave about how ridiculous Councilman Kenneth Stokes’ comments were, but its more beneficial to ask: How do we make it better? As Emergency Responders, we are asked to do heroic deeds that others are not willing or not capable of doing. Maybe the Councilman needs to see that first hand.

Its a safe bet that most of the EMS community would stand behind me when I ask Councilman Stokes to go ahead and spend a shift or two with the EMS Professionals that serve his community. See how they work. Watch them as they interact with and care for his citizens. Walk a mile in their shoes before passing judgment on them.

So how ’bout it, Councilman Stokes? You’ve made it clear that you think you know what we do. Care to put your money where your mouth is?

Photo taken from: Flickr

  • Sam Bradley

    You're so right, Scott. I remember an incident several years ago in our county when an officer was shot chasing a bad guy. The officer was in an open area, the bad guy was concealed. The other officers "told" the ambulance crew they would be covered but they're going in under potential live fire. There was a whole of PTSD that occured from that one. We're always to obey the guy with the gun. What do we do then? Kudos to AMR for taking a stand. I teach scene safety to my students and I know it's paid off a couple times.

  • Dave Kozina

    Here's the thing – we don't wear body armor, we don't carry sidearms. Yes, I've been in situations where there's been an officer down, and it kills me to have to stand by…. this is my brother, MY FRIEND. But if the bad guy takes me out, who's going to help the victim? And I've just made the situation worse by adding another victim to the scene.

    Stokes needs a clue. Quit grandstanding for votes and learn how the world works.