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EMS Festival Standby – You can’t just park a car there

Expecting more than 50,000 people to attend an outdoor festival in your area?  Main street in town going to be shut down, other streets closed off and parking a nightmare?

Sure, we’re prepared, we sent an ambulance to do a standby.


As an attendee of various festivals, events and gatherings in September for Kilted to Kick Cancer I have seen a wide variety of resources deployed.  On fairgrounds and larger venues we commonly see an ambulance at a first aid tent with a golf cart vehicle staffed to perform first response.  Works very well so long as the cart and first aid station can communicate with one another.

At a recent outdoor gathering on what was expected to be close to triple digit heat I witnessed how NOT to handle EMS at a venue.

Walking past the many vendors I noticed a small group of folks standing around a woman in a bar height chair and she was fanning herself rather quickly, but erratically.  It was clear that she was overheated and about to syncopal.  Judging by her girth it was imperative that that occur on the floor, not almost 3 feet off the ground.  I stepped in, grabbed her from behind, explained my actions and moved her to the ground.  I assigned the fanning to another person and poured some of the water she was unable to drink on her neck, arm pits and knees of her heavy pants.  It was a start at least.  Another person was sent into the nearby shop to call 911.  If this was a normal Saturday in this community we’d likely get a police car, an ALS Engine and a private ambulance.  Pretty standard.

The first uniform on scene was a foot patrol policeman assigned to the large festival.  We were midway down a closed street and it was packed with people.  He radioed an update and asked what I needed.  The next folks to wander up are the local Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team, in full hiking gear carrying no equipment.  They radio their people an update and ask what I need.

A supervisor for the local ambulance company is next to find us and he too has no equipment and radios his people that I have her cooling down.  In all there are 6 people standing around me and the woman on the ground…still no one able to do more than I have already done.  Next the crowd is clearly parted by an ambulance crew with cot.  I give them a quick report and head back to my family waiting nearby.

She was taken away in shade and I assume did just fine.

About 15 minutes later a fire engine crew went pushing through the crowd to the spot where the chaos had cleared and looked around as if lost.  They made some radio communications and left, heading back through the crowd to their engine which must have been parked 2 blocks away.  This happened more than once that day.


Why was the engine even activated?  Why did the ambulance supervisor have no equipment?  Why is the search team on site if not to assist in aid?

This is a large annual event in this community and every year the manner in which EMS is handled never seems to improve despite clear complications and gaps in service capability.


But, the plan likely only called for an ambulance to be there…you know…just in case.  So park the car on the far side, order up a giant corn dog and enjoy the live music, if we do get a call it’ll take so long to get there it may not even matter.



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