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NC city tests protocol allowing FFs to leave scene if ambulance is en route

As part of a new pilot program, firefighters will be permitted to leave if the patient is deemed safe

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The Charlotte Fire Department will work with Mecklenburg EMS (MEDIC) to ensure patient safety as they test a new protocol that allows firefighters to leave the scene of a low-acuity medical call if an ambulance is on the way.

Photo/Charlotte Fire Department

The media reports from Charlotte, North Carolina, about a protocol allowing firefighters to leave the scene if an ambulance is en route started a debate about accountability and potential pitfalls. EMS1’s Rob Lawrence reached out to Mecklenburg EMS Agency’s Deputy Director, Jon Studnek, about the reports. Learn where the proposal really stands, and how it can benefit EMS delivery to low-acuity patients here.

By News Staff

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A North Carolina city will test a new protocol that allows firefighters to leave the scene of a medical call if the patient is safe and an ambulance is on the way.

Under the pilot program, which begins next year, Charlotte Fire Department (CFD) firefighters will no longer be required to stay with a patient during calls for non-emergency medical transport, according to WSOC.

“You call 911 and you’re going to get a red truck coming pretty fast in a short time frame,” said CFD Chief Reginald Johnson. “But there are non-emergency calls – foot injuries, back injuries where the person is in a stable place at home but still wants to be transported to the emergency room.”

Johnson said the goal of the protocol is to free up firefighters to respond to more urgent calls, such as cardiac arrests, car crashes and other life-threatening events.

Firefighters can only leave a patient if they are deemed to be in a safe environment and “OK” physically and mentally. The criteria for leaving the scene excludes a list of scenarios including seizures, allergic reactions, breathing problems, assaults and calls involving patients under the age of 18.

The fire department will coordinate with Mecklenburg EMS (MEDIC) on ensuring patient safety.

“We really need to sit down with MEDIC and talk about what those ‘safe’ environments are and what protocols will be,” Johnson said. “But I think this will be a good tool for all first responders.”

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