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Thursday

From here to there.


  From here to there… in one career.

You go from EMS to disaster and emergency management? That's become a question I have heard often. I received e-mails over the years asking me how I made the switch from being a paramedic to diving into disaster and emergency management. While I still practice as a paramedic, I enjoy the research and planning that goes into emergency preparedness and disaster management.

So, here's a short review on a few things that helped shape my career. Remember, you asked.

I was not influenced by the television show emergency. If there were any television influences in my career it was M*A*S*H and Planet of the Apes.
The TV series M*A*S*H always interested me. Here were group of people working under the most difficult conditions with limited supplies and seemingly no support… yet they got the job done despite the challenges. That television show showed me that it was okay to deal with stress and care about what you do. The series M*A*S*H also highlighted that the job was not always glamorous. The TV show emergency, while focused on the fire department, seemed to portray that the job of a firefighter or paramedic was challenging yet dramatic and glamorous. Even as a teenager that portrayal didn't sit well with me as being realistic. The rest of my EMS career hinged on training under some very good EMTs and paramedics who never stopped making a positive impact on how I did the job. The people who trained me had the fortitude to demand perfection and correct bad behavior. Sometimes it seems like that's a quality in short supply today.

As far as emergency and disaster management goes, that's another story. As a young firefighter and paramedic I noticed a lack of training preparing us for dealing with large-scale events. Doing some self study on the topic of mass casualty incident management and large-scale events but there was a lot of material available at that time. Then, on October 19, 1989 we were stunned to see the results of the Loma Prieta earthquake displayed in the mainstream media. Seen by many as the rebirth of urban search and rescue, this one event on the other side of the country changed the way I looked at large-scale events. The scenes coming out of California on the nightly news reminded me of the old TV series and movies called Planet of the Apes. You know the ones, that would show various scenes of a city in ruins after some type of holocaust. I was so taken by the efforts of the responders of all disciplines during that earthquake that I decided to dedicate a major portion of my career to improving response to large scale events and studying emergency management and disaster preparedness.

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