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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

We're EMS, not superheroes

By Arthur Hsieh

Editor's note: This article is in response to the story "Battle over EMS response to crime scenes in Miss." Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh explains why it's unreasonable to expect EMS personnel to enter a known violent situation. Tell us your response in the member comments below.

Back in the 80s it was kinda cool to be hot on the tail of the police as they were managing violent crime situations. I remember one call during my internship with NYC EMS we were heading to a report of a "shooting, multiple victims" in East New York.

As we pulled up, my preceptor yelled through the window opening of the cab, "just grab anyone on the ground who wasn't moving and we're outta here!" I remember thinking how crazy that all sounded, until the back door opened and in came a couple of bodies, being tossed by I don't know whom, landing on the floor and gurney.

And just as vividly, I remember hearing the "pop - pop - poppopopop" of a car back-firing...no, that was a gun being fired. And suddenly I remember how uncool I felt as I hit the deck with my preceptor as we drove away at a somewhat speedy pace.

Staging is a standard practice now, often put into place because someone did, or almost did got hurt once by not waiting for police to arrive. I'm not exactly sure, but my trauma shears or my angiocatheter needles probably don't match up with someone with a gun or knife who is intent on hurting me.

To advocate for unprotected, untrained and unprepared EMS personnel to enter a known violent situation points to a certain ignorance of what EMS does, and does not do.

Last I checked, we're not like a movie or television show, where we seem to be superheroes who can take down perpetrators and assailants with nothing more than a well-placed punch or tackle and a roll of two inch tape. And be awfully good looking and cocksure of ourselves in the process.

There may be other underlying issues. Maybe the local police department is understaffed because of budget cuts, and can't respond in a timely manner.

Maybe there's a contract for ambulance services coming up. Maybe there's a political angle to this. Who knows? It just seems unreal that someone might suggest that it's alright for EMS workers to be subjected to unreasonable risk.

By the way, in checking the news channel's informal poll on this issue, 89 percent of those who voted said that AMR should wait for police to arrive before entering a crime scene. Glad to see there's a bit a common sense prevailing there. What do you think? Tell us in the member comments below.

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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