What a week. Friday a mass shooting in Binghamton, NY, and today three police officers killed in Pittsburgh, PA. Following the week when 8 were murdered in a nursing home in Carthage, NC. Please keep the families of the fallen officers, and our EMS colleagues who had to respond to thesescenes, in our thoughts and prayers.
So - how do we help to prepare ourselves situations like this? And how do we keep ourselves from becoming victims?
We probably need to spend some time, with our colleagues, our staffs, and our students talking about some pretty simple stuff.
1. Stay alert! Oftentimes, responding to a call, we're looking out for traffic, talking with a partner, reading a map, handling a radio and a computer. We're not necessarily observing the scene as we approach. Before you drive up to the front door, look at what's going on. If there are people running away or hiding behind cars, you might want to stop a short distance away, exit your ambulance, and look and listen to the scene. PS - even if dispatch has not mentioned shooting or staging!)
2. Slow down! Give yourself time to look and listen. Remember that while we are obliged (by public perception) to step smartly, we are NOT required to "rush in."
3. Observe the whole scene! As you enter a place, scan the room for signs that violence might erupt, and for things that might be used against you. The patient may be a harmless geriatric, but if there are children about and knives, guns, or things that could be used as impact weapons nearby, one partner should keep an eye on the scene while one keeps eyes and hands on the patient. Law enforcement officers call this "cover and contact" - one partner has contact with the subject, the other covers, remains observant, etc.
4. Learn something about self-protection. It may be nothing more than time-distance-shielding like we learn about radiation events. But, it would be better if we were skilled enough (and physically fit enough) to get out of a choke hold, or to escape from somebody who has jumped on your back (and perhaps applied a choke hold). Better to avoid the situation in the first place, but sometimes that will not be possible. Sometimes trouble will develop after you're "in to " the scene and the call.
5. Develop your incident management and MCI skills. It can happen anywhere! Binghamton NY is a small city - Carthage, NC (the nursing home massacre) is a small town. If there are patients, they will do better if the scene, or at least the medical aspects, are managed effectively. That means you need to know ICS, and particularly the duties of the EMS branch positions - triage, treatment, transportation, hospital destination coordinator. Know where to get additional ambulances immediately.
6. Keep your communications with you! By now, every EMT and paramedic responding to a call should carry a portable radio, and radio systems should allow point-to-point communcations by everybody on the ground.
In short, we need to be prepared on every call. If we approach scenes in a lackidasical manner, drive right to the front door without looking, walk in "fat, dumb, and happy" - well, stand by for the headlines.
Please -- stay safe out there. It is MOST important that you go home to your family, intact, at the end of each shift.
And drive carefully! Wear seatbelts! More of us are hurt in vehicle crashes every year..........