A recent story going around both the media and the EMS blogosphere with much fervor is the assault on the sensible policies of American Medical Response by Jackson, MS City Councilman Kenneth Stokes. You can read the initial story as reported by WLBT and a follow up story as reported by WAPT, both media outlets in Jackson, Mississippi.
His call for responders to disregard scene safety has sparked reaction across the nation from responders and non-responders alike.
Scene safety has been built into the EMT/Paramedic curriculum in every scenario. There is good reason for this. After all, if the rescuers become victims, who does that benefit? Your victim count has increased and you are no closer to preserving life than you were by staging a block away.
The fact is that we encounter and assume a number of risks in our daily everyday duties. We have found ways to reduce some of those risks but these dangers are still real nonetheless:
- Disease – We expose ourselves to disease on a daily basis. Yes there is Body Substance Isolation (BSI) that helps to reduce that risk, but there are still plenty of opportunities for exposure especially when we are the first healthcare providers making contact with a patient
- Motor Vehicle Accidents – We perform our duties in one of the most hostile workplaces ever… the back of a moving vehicle. Yes, we have training and there are seat belts that can help us to reduce that risk. The training that we receive often does not meet the demands placed on operators and most of the safety restraint systems were designed for passenger vehicles in the 50’s
- Physical Health – The physical demands of this job are immense. With the growing girth of America and the continuous reduction of resources we are doing more with less and paying for it in injuries
- Mental Health – The mental and emotional demands placed on us is possibly one of the greatest threats we face. We don’t do enough to reduce that risk and it often leads to broken homes, mental trauma, and emotional imbalance to the point where we are no longer able to function in society as others would
Instituting a staging policy pending the securement of the scene by law enforcement on calls where a violent crime has been reported is sensible of any agency. Adhering to that policy is sensible of any provider.
As it turns out, from the video report below, Councilman Stokes really has no say over the policies or the contract with AMR who is the agency he demanded the policy change from:
Councilman Kenneth Stokes is in fact a dullard when it comes to the purpose and capabilites of not only EMS, but apparently also of himself.
The Unacknowledged Truth
Non-responders though have a slightly different view. From their viewpoint if they are injured, they want help and they want it now. At first glance of the subject most of them agree with Kenneth Stokes. They want to call 911 and have who they need arrive, and not park a block away waiting for someone else.
Usually after further conversation with non-responders, and the highlighting of certain aspects from the scenario, more often than not their viewpoint changes as they better understand what the actual role and capabilities are of EMS. This is yet another indicator that we fail when attempting to effectively communicate with the public. When it comes to what EMS does and is capable of, they are the uneducated masses and we need to make their education a priority so that when it comes to understanding EMS they are not dullards like Kenneth Stokes.
We owe them the gift of education in the very least.
Here are some other takes on the same subject from around the blogosphere:
- Kelly Grayson shined the light on the initial story
- Rogue Medic has a well researched post on the topic and the man
- EMS Garage discussed the issue with a little bit of ranting on the side during Episode 105
- Medic Trommashere wrote an open letter to the instigator in question.
- Justin Schorr looks at the issue from a different perspective