Dangers in EMS

I’m sure you’ve heard about all the news stories of firefighters and EMS personnel getting attacked, but what you might not know is that it’s much more common than you think. Not only is it common, but it’s also been going on much longer than they portray on the news. We all know the dangers of firefighting; however, no one really talks about how dangerous it is to work on an ambulance.

First of all, we all work in a big toaster that crumples in an instant. You add in driving at high speeds with lights and sirens, and now you have a speeding death trap. People already have a hard enough time driving, but as soon as drivers hear those sirens and see those lights they forget everything they knew. They are like deer in headlights. Also we can’t always wear our seat belts while in the back with patients because we have to be able to move around and do different things. Sometimes we get thrown around or worse get injured if an accident occurs.

What’s talked about less in public and even in EMT/Medic classes are the other dangers EMS presents. It is very possible and common to get violent patients. Here in Vegas we have a large population of mental health patients that unfortunately do not treat it or control it. Whether it’s that person’s fault or they are unable to get the treatment they need either way we run many psychiatric calls. Psychiatric patients can be very unpredictable, and can become dangerous in an instant. If they decide to get violent there is not much room in the back of an ambulance to get away. The patient is now endangering the life of an EMS employee and their own. We have to be able to protect ourselves as well as our partners and patients, and in doing so we can get injured. This also goes for anyone who could have an altered mental status due to drugs/alcohol or a medical problem.

Recently we’ve had to start worrying about getting attacked for no reason. Firefighters and EMS have a target on their backs. Is it because people relate us with the police? It’s possible, but for whatever reason it’s another danger to add to the job. In school they teach us “scene safety,” which is making sure the scene is safe before entering. That’s all good and dandy, but we can’t always know if a scene is safe or the scene can change while we are there. For example about a year ago my husband was working, and received a call to go to a patient’s home late at night. Him and his partner arrived at the address that was given to them and knocked on the door. To my husband’s surprise he was met at the door with a gun to his head. Long story short my husband is fine, and the gentleman put the gun down. Apparently they had been given the wrong address and this man was not happy someone was knocking on his door late at night.  I’ve heard many similar stories. I’m sure many of you heard about the man who was swinging a knife around at a crew here in Vegas, and ended up getting on top of the ambulance. Scenes can be unpredictable just like our patients.

At the end of the day we have to trust our partners, our firefighters, and our police. We all have to work as a team to stay safe, and keep the people we are trying to help safe.

So there is a little peak into the things we deal with out there. Why do we face these dangers and put our lives at risk? “So others may live.” This job isn’t for everyone, but for those of us who do it keep rocking it and stay safe.