Top five ways LEOs can help on an EMS scene
Working with law enforcement to identify protocols and preferences can help them help you
Response by law enforcement to EMS scenes is extremely common and there are probably very few times where some extra help on scene isn’t welcome. In many cases, the officers are performing direct law enforcement duties, but many times, they are available to help with EMS tasks or at least perform functions that can make your scene run a little more smoothly and contribute to patient care.
While there is no doubt a wide range of opinions about how police officers, sheriff deputies and even state troopers can be utilized on scene, here are a handful of tasks or objectives your agency may work with law enforcement to formalize in your responses.
1. Preserving scene safety
It is no doubt that scene safety is the first and, likely, most logical objective law enforcement officers (LEOs) can assist with at an EMS scene. It’s what they do, and they are pros at assessing situations and people on scene to get a feel for individuals who may not have you or your patient’s best interests in mind. Assessing and protecting scene safety is probably not even something LEOs need to be asked to do, but it may be worth formalizing the expectation and how they will communicate any concerns to EMS crews.
LEOs’ familiarity with neighborhoods and even specific homes in the area due to previous encounters with the residents is especially helpful in terms of scene safety and identifying potential threats. They tend to be aware of previous criminal activity as well as the presence of gang interests.
2. Providing insight into scene access
Law enforcement may also be able to help make scene run a little more smoothly by identifying where the patient is within a home or building and how EMS providers will need to access the patient. Will a stair chair or other special equipment be needed to move the patient? What is the best route out of the building with that equipment? Will crews need to bring scene lighting in with them because there is no power or natural light in the room? Are there hoarding concerns that will make access a challenge?
This is also an opportunity to do hands-on training with the LEOs. Show them the basics of your patient stretcher and how patients are secured to it. They are often willing to help place blankets and secure cot belts. It is also important to show them how to retrieve the cot from the ambulance in case you and your partner are busy with a critical patient.
3. Identifying witnesses from lookie-loos
The flashing red lights and commotion of an EMS scene will undoubtedly bring out a crowd. But are the folks in that crowd witnesses who can provide helpful information or just nosey neighbors? Law enforcement can help sort the crowd, keep the non-involved people out of the scene and conduct an initial interview to gather pertinent facts from those who can shed some light on the situation.
Their knowledge of the area and residents, coupled with a few focused questions can help you fill in the blanks of what happened to the patient before 911 was called.
4. Assisting with patient care
LEOs are clearly more involved in direct patient care than they were not-so-many years ago. Police academies now include a significant number of hours teaching cadets basic first responder skills, such as CPR, AED use, hemorrhage control and opioid-reversal agent administration. Not all agencies require officers to render aid, but many do get involved and offer some level of care, especially in areas where EMS response times are longer.
When officers do provide direct patient care, it is best to coordinate that with local EMS protocols and other directives from the medical director.
Besides the previously mentioned CPR/AED, hemorrhage control and naloxone skills, law enforcement should also be encouraged to carefully consider when patients should be moved or walked out to meet the ambulance and when they should leave the patient where they find them. Clearly, that covers a wide range of situations, policies and preferences, but it can also be a point of conflict and an opportunity to provide inappropriate care. It’s best to discuss protocols and have an understanding ahead of time.
5. Comforting patients and family members
Last but certainly not least, LEOs should be taught the importance of just talking with patients while EMS is still responding to let them know that additional help is on the way. Emergency medical responders know that just by being there, the patient and their family is reassured and made more comfortable.
Improving scene safety with technology
Incorporating real-time and body-worn camera footage into emergency preparedness, training and response
An extra pair of hands
There are not too many EMS agencies out there anymore that don’t welcome an extra pair of hands on scene or a public safety partner first responding before the ambulance. Take a moment to work with law enforcement agencies in your area to help them help you and the patient the best way they can.
Stay safe out there.