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Monday, August 23, 2010

Yes, I Do Expect Situational Awareness Every Time

Yes, I do expect situational awareness every time...and you should, too!

Perhaps you read my August 22 post in Mitigation Journal blog. It was about six EMT's who were taken to a local hospital after being exposed to acid while treating a victim of a motor vehicle crash. I saw this event (not too far from home) as yet another wake-up call for responders...with the message: "You don't have to wait for a terrorist attack to use your WMD training..."I've been spouting that message for years in the hopes that someone will listen...not to cast dispersions or point fingers...Simply making my point that a majority of WMD training has been useless because it is not applied in every-day situations (for the record, I hate the term WMD, but that's another story.

Shortly after the August 22 posting was published I received several emails from local and not-so-local readers. Here are some choice excerpts from those emails:
"EMS is not trained to look for hazardous materials...that is the job for the FD..." Blog reader New York
"You can't expect [responders] to be thinking about toxic stuff on routine calls like a MVC (motor vehicle collision)..." Blog reader Florida

"EMS has to be focused on patient care, triage and transport..." Blog reader Colorado

"It's not our [EMS] job to do that (chemical)...FD and police should..." Blog reader Washington
I'd like to thank all who wrote in on this topic for providing me the proof that most WMD training has been a waste of time and for providing me with a ton of editorial material for future blog posts and podcasts.

Lets debunk each of these comments, shall we?
"EMS is not trained to look for hazardous materials...that is the job for the FD..."
Not trained to look for hazardous materials?! Yes you are! EMS personnel are (at least in NY) required to undergo hazardous materials awareness training with annual updates meeting OSHA 1910.120. The problem is that this hazmat training is usually delivered by someone who is not familar with the material, the impact on EMS, or the potential danger of failure. How long will it take before EMS realizes it cannot stand on the sideline in well-pressed uniforms waiting for someone else to deal with a situation. Although I give this some credence due to the "second-class citizen" mindset of EMS, we have to wake up and understand that EMS (indeed, all responders) have an obligation to look for hazards on every incident.
"You can't expect [responders] to be thinking about toxic stuff on routine calls like a MVC (motor vehicle collision)..." 
Uh, duh...yes I can...or I wouldn't have written this post. After all the time and money spent on preparedness and awareness we are still not thinking about hazardous situations because...why? Isn't there enough in the news? Or, is it because it can't happen here? And that is the problem with most WMD and terrorism training...they get you to thinking about it only when you are told the situation is intentional or an attack of some sort. 
"EMS has to be focused on patient care, triage and transport..."  
I thought EMS got out of the "you call, we haul, that's all..." mentality a decade ago. I can't argue this point...if you're still thinking that way, good luck. 

Stay tuned for more on this...

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