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EMS, Rescue, Safety, You Make the Call

You Make the Call – Hanging around

The title is a bad pun, but has a dual meaning, trust me.

You have been dispatched in your first response vehicle to a boat yard for a reported hanging. The location is about a 10 minute drive from your posting spot and no other rescuers are responding with you.

About half way there dispatch advises the reporting party states the victim is in a boat out on the lake and will take rescuers to it when they arrive. The local Sheriffs used to have a boat but budget cuts have it on a trailer in a parking lot.

Arriving at the scene, or at least the closest your rig can get, a man identifies himself as the boat yard manager and motions you to a well kept vessel dockside with 2 other men staffing it. It is larger than a house boat and has plenty of room for all your gear, even the gurney!

Local PD radios you and states they are 10 minutes out with a field investigator and camera and request you do not board the boat until they arrive.

The man on the boat is adamant that you hurry and come with him immediately. It is a 10-12 minute ride to the boat anchored around a corner.


What do you do?

You make the call.

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  1. Adam October 28, 2011 10:05 am

    Assuming that you consider your scene to be safe and have managed all of your potential hazards… I take the ride. Police investigation does not take precedence over medical care. Police don’t get the scene until it’s confirmed that there is not a patient, but a corpse. Confirmation of corpse vs. patient doesn’t take place until medical care is initiated and assessment completed. So I would take the ride and find out what we’ve got going on, taking all appropriate steps to maintain the integrity of the crime scene, etc. as long as we feel comfortable that the scene is safe.

    If you take the ride, and it is in fact a hanging, depending on the amount of time the patient has been hanging, you might still have a patient. Resuscitation is possible, albeit unlikely. However, if you wait ten minutes for PD to arrive, and then take the ten or twelve minute ride to the scene, there is no doubt whatsoever that you will have a corpse.

  2. The Goose October 28, 2011 1:18 pm

    In my opinion, it all depends on the length of time that the person has been hanging. If that information is not available, I would get on the boat and respond to the scene. Right or wrong, that is what I would do.


  3. FireBuffMI October 28, 2011 1:22 pm

    10 minutes to the dock and 10-12 minutes to the boat, meaning at least 20 minutes plus how ever long the person was there before being discovered. So they’ve likely been there 25-30 minutes. I’d wait for PD.

    However if our boat transport people have additional information on the patient then that could change things.

  4. Ryancp October 28, 2011 2:06 pm

    How did the call come in?  Did the folks you are about to get on the boat with find the guy, drive their boat back 10 minutes to call, and then you have a 10 min ride back?  Did they see the guy and can they tell you whether it looked like he fell and accidentally hung himself or whether it looks like an intentional act?  Clearly, I would have my stuff ready to go on the boat, but would also air on the side of security.  I generally wait for PD to clear the scene on all suicide calls, but that is a protocol issue.  Am I waiting for a cop with a camera or just a cop?  They can take pictures later, but I would probably wait for a cop for security issues.

  5. Jerrod Nash October 29, 2011 9:09 pm

    Just because it is a “hanging” does not mean the patient is still hanging. That is a callous assumption towards the person who found him/her. I choose to believe that a “reasonable person” would do what they could immediately before/while/after calling 911. The patient could well no longer be hanging. I would evaluate my feeling towards the boat yard manager (does he make me uneasy, does he want to hurt me?), and find out if he might have more information than dispatch had (he probably does since dispatch is usually very busy and isn’t generally in the details business). If he knows where the patient is, and has some info on the condition of the patient I might go with him. IE: “I heard a noise in the other room. I immediately went out and I found him and cut him down then call 911. He was breathing weird but I think he was still alive. His mom is with him…” This is versus “I heard something went on out yonder and I want to check it out. I heard on the yard radio that Johnson hung himself, and I just have to check it out. That old goat is finally dead!” In the first case, I would advise Dispatch than I’m going, in the second, I’d speed PD up to Code 3.

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