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EMS, Patient Care

Writer calls for Medics to risk more in shootings, misses the target

Kevin Hazzard (@NakedStrangers), is a writer and former Paramedic from Atlanta who wrote a piece for the Washington Post titled “Paramedics are taught not to risk their lives after mass shootings. They should.”


You can imagine the uproar from the three disciplines.  Just reading the comments on the original piece sums up the range of emotions from one reader, “Hell yeah, get in there and save lives” to the other end of the spectrum calling Hazzard all sorts of names and questioning if 9 years in Atlanta makes him an EMS “expert.”

First thing first: I wasn’t with Hazzard those 9 years so I can’t speak to his experiences.  However, based on this article and the recommendations, I would lean on the side of inexperience.

I’ll also have to disagree with the title, which is not often written by the writer but instead an editor. “…risk their lives AFTER mass shootings” should read DURING.  After the shooting stops we re-evaluate the situation.

Here’s why:

We in EMS and Fire are taught to stay back during violent events because we are not trained to be able to prevent the scene from devolving.  We are not trained to secure, scan for threats and protect a scene, be it shooting, stabbing or explosion.  We are trained to deal with the aftermath.

The article touches on the newest fad in EMS, TEMS, which will soon go the way of MAST pants and cooling.  The idea of giving an EMT a quick class on how to stand near an armed group of officers and issuing them a vest and helmet really only helps pay the mortgage of the guy selling the vests and helmets.

I’m all for PPE for our people.  I’m also for the core element of TEMS which is integration with PD when needed.  What we don’t need is adrenaline junkies on almost minimum salary being given a vest and helmet and sent into chaos.  The team needs to be highly trained and fully equipped.

Will immediate intervention make a difference in some cases?  Perhaps.  Hazzard mentions that victims in Boston were treated immediately because EMS was already onsite.  True.  Hazzard also mentions that the Pulse Nightclub shooting held rescuers back and people were taken out in pick up trucks.  Also true.


As an EMS Captain for a large, busy EMS system I can relate to many of the challenges in staffing a TEMS team that can line up and be ready to go in with the second or third wave, the Rescue Task Force.  The training usually involves everyone arriving together at a safe location, donning their gear and going into an office building of some kind.  Neato!  Now imagine the real life call when the first 2 patrol officers report an active shooter and the ambulance beats everyone else in.


Hazzard, based on the article, wants the public to expect that ambulance crew to don their vests and helmets, grab their trauma gear and line up!  After all, isn’t it worth my life to save another?



No my life is not on the table to save another.  My skills are here to do the most good for the most people.  Getting shot to save a life while 3 others perish is not heroic, it is right out of Hollywood who has a horrible track record for accuracy of our profession.

Do we take risks?  Absolutely.

If trained and equipped will I enter a hazardous area to perform a rescue?  Absolutely.

If I am surf rescue qualified and see someone in distress in the water without my gear will I risk my life for theirs?  Absolutely not.

On a side note, I would imagine many folks who are pushing for TEMS gear and limited training were also against cops getting Narcan.  “They don’t have the training to administer it and do a good enough job!”

Same as we don’t yet have the training to TEMS everything.

A successful TEMS program deployed in the community is a great idea, throwing gear on the rig because it’s the latest, greatest thing is going to get someone killed.  And chances are that someone was the only one who could have saved the rest of the injured at the scene.


Stick to writing TV for now Hazzard, your concepts will look better from my couch than the Command Post at an active incident when people are down.

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