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Home > Topics > EMS Advocacy
August 21, 2012
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

When citizens go on the attack: "Is this your first fire?"

Scene sizeup takes a few seconds yet is worth every single moment, but witnesses might not perceive it that way

By Arthur Hsieh

Editor's note: This video showing the owners of a burning car berating Ill. firefighters for their response made the rounds on blogs and websites last month, and according to Art Hsieh, there's lessons to be learned for all responders.

At the scene of an emergency, it seems that folks other than the first responders suddenly think that they're the experts. This video clip captures the stress and fear of the assumed car owners as they watch a prized possession go up in smoke.

Seconds seem like minutes when the mind is under that amount of stress; no wonder they were berating the responding firefighters.

Of course, the responders reacted appropriately: Focusing on the incident and remaining cool, calm and professional.

It's easy to forget how witnesses perceive our actions. I know how I react when someone is screaming at the top of their lungs when I arrive: I move slower — not because of any evil intent but because the higher the stress level of the situation, the greater the chances of making a mistake and getting injured or killed.

Scene sizeup takes but a few seconds yet is worth every single moment. We collect a wealth of information as we look for myriad hazards that could harm not only ourselves but also the members of the public near the scene.

Then we look for clues on the scene that might be related to the situation or the patient's presentation, trying to see what, if anything, might be there.

We rescuers know all of this, but recognize that those outside of our profession may not.

To those folks, please understand that we feel your pain and fear. We are here to help you. We will do our best to do so. Understand that we want to protect you and ourselves at the same time, since we are of no use to your situation if we are injured or killed.

We promise not to react like the chap in this video.

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.
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