Police Car Drivers, Ambulance Drivers, and their responsibilities

Look at the pictures below and see if you can identify the three occupations represented by the people in the pictures.

What are their jobs?

What are their areas of expertise?

What would you expect them to be responsible for?

                                     

 

Yep, pretty much everyone reading this and almost every lay person you can think of should probably be able to answer the above questions. The Police Car Driver chases bad guys; The Fire Truck Driver squirts water at things; and the Paramedic takes care of people who are sick and hurt, right? Sure, their jobs sometimes overlap and so does some of their training, but the jobs and the requisite education and responsibilities are different and separate for a reason. The different roles up there are different, specialized, and require expertise in order to be effectively performed… right?

And before you think that I’m opening the Fire Based EMS can of worms, I want to direct you to this news story I just read on EMS1.com – Kentucky EMTs not called for 5 hours until coroner ruled woman was alive. Go read this and then come back please. It got me all riled up and I’m sure it will you as well.

The moral of the story, is that police officers were called for a dead body found in some bushes some where. They started doing their cop stuff and didn’t call EMS to evaluate the body because their cop training told them that the woman was obviously dead. Unfortunately for all involved, when the coroner arrived he told them that their police-issued medical training wasn’t adequate and that the woman was indeed alive.

And yes, I am 100% sure that nobody intended for that to be the tragic result.. people make mistakes, I know… but:

How many times have you been called out in your ambulance to a potential medical emergency and then cancelled while en route? Have you ever wondered who is cancelling you and for what reason? When we arrive on scene, we evaluate the patient and determine their need for transport. We have extensive training to help us do this and we function within a complex set of laws and regulations to help ensure that bad outcomes like this happen as infrequently as possible. Unfortunately, however, things like this do happen, even to experienced paramedics. How many times have you heard news stories about paramedics calling someone dead only to have them be found alive later on? How many times have you heard about occult neck fractures and other severe injuries being found later even after a patient was evaluated by a physician? It happens, folks… and it happens to us medical people too. Even with the training, knowledge, skills, and experience we have that is specifically geared to emergency medical care that is again enhanced by the fancy tools that we carry with us, we sometimes still make mistakes…

So why in the heck would a police officer, who as stated above chases bad guys and does other kinds of “cop stuff”, want to make the decision that someone was dead or not? It simply doesn’t make any sense to me. I have always been leery of having police officers call us off of medical scenes. Even when I know the officer and trust his or her judgment, I know that my medical training and tools are superior to theirs. That’s the way the system is designed, we do medical stuff and they do cop stuff.

I think that there’s a pervasive trend out there that causes dispatchers to send police units first to things like auto accidents and possible crimes in progress and then potentially forget to send EMS. Most of the time, it’s perfectly ok and turns out just fine. Other times, incidents like the above happen. How many times, also, has a police officer determined an auto accident to not require medical response and an occult injury been found later? I don’t know and haven’t seen any statistics… but I’ll bet it happens a lot more than is ever reported.

My advice? I promise to let the cops to their cop stuff. They just need to always remember to call me out to do my stuff. I don’t mind doing the report if I’m not needed or I get a refusal, I just don’t want anyone to suffer needlessly.

Be careful out there.

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Want more of my thoughts on Fire Based EMS? See: “Fiddling While Rome Burns… The ambulance “industry”

  • Jeremy

    This reminds me of the policy on my college campus. Apparently if you're a Resident Assistant and there's a medical emergency, they are supposed to call University Police. University police will then respond, and decide whether or not to call out our rescue squad.

    Before reading this post, I just felt like too much time was being wasted with that system. If it was a cardiac arrest, why spend the time having police respond and then have them call the medical people?

    After reading this post, it makes even less sense. I've decided if I'm ever on campus and there's a medical emergency I'm just calling 911 who will dispatch both at the same time.

  • Jeremy

    This reminds me of the policy on my college campus. Apparently if you're a Resident Assistant and there's a medical emergency, they are supposed to call University Police. University police will then respond, and decide whether or not to call out our rescue squad.

    Before reading this post, I just felt like too much time was being wasted with that system. If it was a cardiac arrest, why spend the time having police respond and then have them call the medical people?

    After reading this post, it makes even less sense. I've decided if I'm ever on campus and there's a medical emergency I'm just calling 911 who will dispatch both at the same time.

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  • CBEMT

    I've decided if I'm ever on campus and there's a medical emergency I'm just calling 911 who will dispatch both at the same time.

    Don't bet somebody's life on it. More than once people called 911 at my college, and Fire and EMS showed up without Campus PD having any idea why they were there. Their training, jump bags, O2, and AEDs could have been onscene within 2 minutes anywhere on campus, but it all went to waste if the only call made was to 911.

    Not to mention the fact that FD/EMS didn't necessarily have access to the building without Campus PD being there to meet them. Our first-due engine knew the campus fairly well from coming on fire alarms, but the city EMS did not- which is why when notified, Campus PD would post a car at the entrance to campus and lead them to the building, saving valuable time. Which they can't do if nobody calls them.

  • CBEMT

    I've decided if I'm ever on campus and there's a medical emergency I'm just calling 911 who will dispatch both at the same time.

    Don't bet somebody's life on it. More than once people called 911 at my college, and Fire and EMS showed up without Campus PD having any idea why they were there. Their training, jump bags, O2, and AEDs could have been onscene within 2 minutes anywhere on campus, but it all went to waste if the only call made was to 911.

    Not to mention the fact that FD/EMS didn't necessarily have access to the building without Campus PD being there to meet them. Our first-due engine knew the campus fairly well from coming on fire alarms, but the city EMS did not- which is why when notified, Campus PD would post a car at the entrance to campus and lead them to the building, saving valuable time. Which they can't do if nobody calls them.

  • Tgl3816

    The irony of it all… I have been on too many “crime scenes” to list and had to pretty much beg to let me confirm apparent death merely because they did not want EMS to hinder the crime scene evidence. Yet, five minutes later I will be dispatched to a MVC with no reported injuries because they think that the “refusal” form releases them from liability. Crazy stuff happening out there. Always keep your eyes open.

  • http://twitter.com/rescue_monkey Rescue Monkey

    In Kentucky there are only two groups of people who can pronounce a person dead. Physicians & Paramedics. It is sad that the police did not bother to check for a pulse. They couldn't have gotten close enough. I do not know Lexington Police Policy. I can account for the policy in the largest city in Kentucky. Every presumed DOA gets a paramedic to pronounce/confirm death.

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  • http://twitter.com/rescue_monkey Rescue Monkey

    In Kentucky there are only two groups of people who can pronounce a person dead. Physicians & Paramedics. It is sad that the police did not bother to check for a pulse. They couldn't have gotten close enough. I do not know Lexington Police Policy. I can account for the policy in the largest city in Kentucky. Every presumed DOA gets a paramedic to pronounce/confirm death.

  • Kentuckychick

    As a Lexington resident who came upon your site just tonight, I can tell you that this case has completely sickened me, and our entire community. No one can understand why the simple pulse check that could have told the individuals on scene that Umi Southworth was still alive, was never completed. No one can understand why the paramedics were not immediately called. And certainly, no one can understand why it took 3 hours… from 7:00 in the evening to nearly 10 pm for the coroner to even be notified… and then until after 11 for him to be able to get close enough to the body to figure out himself that she wasn't dead. Sickening is what it is. And admittedly I'm not a police officer, nor am I a paramedic, or anyone who has any general knowledge of crime scene investigation… BUT I would hope to God that the first thing I would do, or anyone else for that matter, when coming upon the body of a fellow person who's been beaten would be to at least have the human decency to reach out and feel for a freaking pulse.

    And in the days since yes, the Chief of Police has said that it is/was the spoken policy that if a person “looked dead enough” they could just presume death and that this policy will change… the written policy, however is that paramedics IMMEDIATELY be notified.

    Rules are made to keep people safe… I just hope that Mrs. Southworth did not suffer in those 5 hours she was left for dead by the people who should have been helping her.

  • Kentuckychick

    As a Lexington resident who came upon your site just tonight, I can tell you that this case has completely sickened me, and our entire community. No one can understand why the simple pulse check that could have told the individuals on scene that Umi Southworth was still alive, was never completed. No one can understand why the paramedics were not immediately called. And certainly, no one can understand why it took 3 hours… from 7:00 in the evening to nearly 10 pm for the coroner to even be notified… and then until after 11 for him to be able to get close enough to the body to figure out himself that she wasn't dead. Sickening is what it is. And admittedly I'm not a police officer, nor am I a paramedic, or anyone who has any general knowledge of crime scene investigation… BUT I would hope to God that the first thing I would do, or anyone else for that matter, when coming upon the body of a fellow person who's been beaten would be to at least have the human decency to reach out and feel for a freaking pulse.

    And in the days since yes, the Chief of Police has said that it is/was the spoken policy that if a person “looked dead enough” they could just presume death and that this policy will change… the written policy, however is that paramedics IMMEDIATELY be notified.

    Rules are made to keep people safe… I just hope that Mrs. Southworth did not suffer in those 5 hours she was left for dead by the people who should have been helping her.

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Chris Kaiser aka "Ckemtp"

I am a paramedic trying to advance the idea that the Emergency Medical Services can be made into the profession that we all want it, need it, and know it deserves to be.

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