Home > EMS Mastery > EMS in the Summer of 2016: The Country is Hot and Our Streets are Boiling Over.

EMS in the Summer of 2016: The Country is Hot and Our Streets are Boiling Over.

July 28, 2016


“Hate Takes Too Much energy.”

PO Montrell Jackson, Slain Officer, Baton Rouge Police Department


Beep! Beep! Beeeep!  “EMS Unit 5, are you in-service? EMS Unit 5 at 15:10 hours. Beeep!” Your dispatcher quips. Time for you to sign on and go in-service.

Something is not right.  Something you really can’t put your finger on is bothering you.  You have checked your ambulance and are getting ready to go in-service.  The checklist is done, you have ambulance call reports but yet there is something lingering in the air. There is something stopping you from going in service and putting the vehicle in drive. “Did I forget to check something? Did I forget my radio? What is it?”

This summer is different.  Sure it is another hot July, the cities are boiling over but for God’s sake, they are killing police officers without warning.  There are some horrendous things that happen in the world that we take in stride and go on.  Once in a while, however, there are events that really make us stop and think.

“How do we go out into the streets and provide care when they are killing police officers without warning?”

In Dallas Texas there were 5 police officers murdered during a public demonstration.  These five officers were gunned down by a sniper during a protest.  How do we as EMT’s and paramedics go out into the streets when violence can erupt in a gun flash killing police officers without provocation?

I know there are soldiers who are facing much worse conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this is our homeland, this is where we live.  We are supposed to be safe. This is our home! Unfortunately, the senseless violence and retaliation at home are not new.

I thought the August 2007 shooting of 4 college friends in Newark, New Jersey was horrendous.    But it seems like violence keeps happening and the body counts keeps rising.  (Read about the Newark shooting here:  http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=a61_1186417476)

Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were murdered in what investigators believe was a crazed gunman’s ­assassination-style mission to avenge Eric Garner and Michael Brown on December 20, 2014,  in Brooklyn NY.  These officers were sitting in a marked police car during a terrorism response drill when they were murdered.

On June 5th the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history took place when a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 in the early morning hours of June 12 at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. (Read about the Pulse Nightclub shooting: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/12/us/orlando-shooting-timeline/index.html )

It feels like the war is here in the streets of our country. Actually, there is war in our city streets. We live in a different world now.

How do we as EMT’s and paramedics go out into the streets and provide care when there is so much unpredictable violence. How do we go out in the streets when police officers are being murdered in the street in Dallas, Texas while monitoring a protest or in Brooklyn, New York while staffing a terrorism drill?

In past decades there were risks from responding to a shooting, crime in progress or a large fire.  But we as responders were not targeted.  Now police officers and responders are being targeted during down time between calls or in situations you would not suspect violence.

How do we go in service and help the public? 

I was working in the Bronx in the summer of 1988 when we were very understaffed and short on   vehicles. People were waiting an hour for an ambulance and we were in the news daily, the public met us with criticism and anger.  We went out and did our jobs, because we were the system to those people we met.  Eventually, the system improved and things got better.  We overcame tough times by focusing on our actions and our patients.

During the tough times, we stayed the course by being tough and doing our job, kept focused and did our job.  We learned to diffuse anger and focus people on the problem at hand. 

My partner would say, “What is the use? People hate us and we can’t get any slack from them.”

I replied, “Don, we can get through the day by doing our best, focusing on our patient and showing them there is some good in EMS.  To the people we meet today, we are EMS.”

By concentrating on our job at hand, our safety and persevering in tough times we can provide emergency care and feel good about the impact we are having on the public.   We are the public service to those we meet, make the difference by being the buffer.  We can help diffuse tensions and attitudes by being the buffer, acknowledging their concerns, get them to focus on the matter at hand.

When you operating in the streets keep your eyes and ears open.  Stop, Look, Listen and think.

During your daily responses follow you instincts, vary your response routes and approach common call locations from different directions, use different entrances. When you have a problem call for backup and a supervisor.  Worst comes to worse leave the scene and regroup at a safe location.  It is a good policy to talk these issues out with your partner before you run into a problem.

“If real trouble erupts, I will meet you back at the ambulance if we are separated.  If we are in a high-Rise I will meet you in the lobby.”

Safety Rules to Live by and Stay Alive by

  • Stop, look, listen and think.
  • Communicate with PD and Fire, share information.
  • Consider stopping down the block to evaluate situation and wait for other responders
  • Remember to use hard cover to protect yourself. Examples would be a rock wall, a building.
  • Stay out of line-of-site of a shooter.
  • Think Big. Choose a distant location when staging vehicles and responders.

To learn more about responding to terrorist incidents read: The Downwind Walk: A USAR Paramedic’s Experiences after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.  Check it out at:   http://amzn.to/29FCd4f

I have always found the worse the conditions the tighter EMS and PD get.  We are in this together and in the end, we are all people who want to make it to the end of our shift.   I call the effect of worse conditions in the street bringing responders and people together The Downwind Effect.  On September 11, 2001 people from all levels of income, color and different services were all covered in dust and depended on each other to survive, they were all gray and dust covered.  They were united.

In tough times like these EMS can be part of the solution.  We can demonstrate professionalism and care for the public.  Caring does not only mean patient care but also basic courtesy and kindness to the public when circumstances allow it.  An old partner of mine opened my eyes to the fact we don’t have to defibrillate or intubate to make a difference.  George would say, ”Those emergencies ae rare, we can help the public every day.  Kindness means more to them than ALS, plus we don’t have to re-stock.”

Steps for diffusing anger and resentment:

-Demonstrate Respect  

-See the person, not the actions and words.

-Listening skills – reflect back to them what you hear them saying.  Show concern and understanding

-Focus those involved back to the current problem at hand.

These times we are experiencing are history in the making.  We are working in times when the country is evolving and democracy is being tested.  Our number one priority is to stay safe, stay alive.  We have to stick together with police in fire in dire situations.  We are all brothers and sisters.  We also have a commitment to help the public, show respect and listen to their concerns.  We do not have to solve their problems, just listen and acknowledge.  We can complete the circle by focusing them on the situation at hand.  People who see the big picture see humanity, not color of uniform, ethnicity or wealth.   We are all people who live together and have to interact with respect.

Stay safe, keep your eyes open and be prepared to help people.  Now go in service and make a difference!

The words of Police Officer Montrell Jackson seem to sum up the problem of the Summer of 2016 very well, “Hate takes too much energy.”

I personally think there is more good in this world but hate has a better press agent.  The actions of many can outweigh the negativity of a few.

To learn more about responding to terrorist incidents read: The Downwind Walk: A USAR Paramedic’s Experiences after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.  Check it out at:   http://amzn.to/29FCd4f

About the author: Steven Kanarian is a 25 year veteran of the FDNY EMS, Educator and author and speaker. StevenKanarian@gmail.com, @MedicMentor.












Categories: EMS Mastery
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