Trending Topics

4 EMS traditions in the making

As EMS technology and service models continue to evolve words, phrases or activities will become tradition


Interior of a stroke ambulance with CT-scanner.

Photo by Greg Friese

By Sean Eddy

When I started working in fire-dispatch part-time, I was rather overwhelmed with all the terminology that I didn‘t understand.

After a couple instances of having to perform quick Google searches to figure out what the hell an incident commander was talking about, I finally decided to do some research and learn about all this “fire lingo” stuff. As it turns out, there is some really cool history behind the terminology and daily operations of the fire service. Everything from a fire being “tapped out” (look that one up... it‘s really neat) to the reason why red lights still exist on the front of most fire stations. That one is absolutely fascinating.

Learning all of this has been pretty cool, but it has left me to wonder what traditions we maintain in EMS. That‘s when it dawned on me … we‘re creating our traditions now. EMS in its present form hasn‘t been around all that long. While our technology and methods have seen improvement over the years, it really hasn‘t changed that much. However, as technology and our whole delivery model continues to evolve, I can‘t help but wonder what words, phrases or activities will become tradition.

I decided to take an educated guess about the things that will soon become our traditions. Here‘s my top four:

1. Getting “Toned” Out

With many services ditching analog radio alerting, moving to digital radio systems and implementing automated services like “Locution,” it should come as no surprise that many of our “tones” will no longer serve a practical purpose. Actually, it‘s been years since I‘ve been alerted off an analog radio tone. However, I still refer to our alerts as “being toned out.” I think there is a strong likelihood that this will become an EMS tradition.

2. Giving “Radio” Reports

While I understand that most ambulance services still use radio systems to call in their patient reports to the ER, technology is slowly replacing the need to do so. I don‘t think it‘s out of the realm of possibility that traditional “radio reports” could be replaced by digital delivery methods like cellular phones or VOIP.

3. Ambulance Cots

While the basic purpose of a cot hasn‘t changed, the design, operation and functionality of these devices have greatly evolved over the years to the point where most original operators would barely recognize them today. It seems that the only thing that hasn‘t changed is the name.

4. Ambulances

No, I haven‘t lost my ever-loving mind. Think about this one for a minute. Think about what the definition of an “ambulance” was 40+ years ago vs. today. What once was nothing more than a glorified transport vehicle has now turned into a virtual mobile emergency room. Hell, we now have ambulances with mobile CT-scanners! Once again, everything is evolving except the name. It will be interesting to see what we call an “ambulance” 30 years from now.

These are just a handful of predictions that I have made.

What do you think are EMS traditions in the making?

Uniform Stories features a variety of contributors. These sources are experts and educators within their profession. Uniform Stories covers an array of subjects like field stories, entertaining anecdotes, and expert opinions.
The Howard County ambulance was parked with its rear yellow warning lights activated when the car struck the back
According to a recent report, 80% of millennial workers say they consider work-life balance when deciding whether to take a job
Know the signs of escalation and how to diffuse dangerous encounters
“I guarantee that you can improve your BVM technique by following these four essential guidelines”