Sunday, August 24, 2008

Right of Way

One of the more interesting questions that I have heard asked over the years, and have certainly asked myself, was what happens when two emergency vehicles transporting "code 3" both attempt to enter the same intersection. In this scenario, who has the right of way? In eighteen years, sixteen of those driving, I have never come across this first hand until recently.

While transporting an ALS patient to an out of the way hospital, I was approaching a major intersection only a block away. Having the red signal, I sounded the appropriate amount of sirens and air horns to notify the oncoming traffic that my rig and the ALS intercept unit were calling for the right of way. Seeing that traffic had yielded, I proceeded forward but then out of the corner of my eye I saw it. The bright flash of a Type V heading into the same intersection!

Depressing the brake and now waiting to see what their next move would be, I was relieved to see that he stopped and let me continue. As both of our rigs, backed into the ambulance bay, I leaned over and told my compatriot from the other rig that I had a life long question answered just then. He gave me a look and asked what I was talking about. I said, what would happen when two rigs both came into the same intersection. He laughed and said he wasn't sure either, but that in his book the rig with ALS always had the right of way.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Never Wear White Shoes

Last night I was signed up for duty crew at the squad. Call goes in, and we get to the house. I begin walking up the outside steps and I look down and see the concrete is wet.. I thought it was water. I walk into the house only to find out it was blood. And it was everywhere! I have never been on this bad of a bloody call. And amazingly the guy was fine.. I still think it was because adrenaline was pumping and he just didn't realize how bad his arm was cut. And I of course was kicking myself in the ass for wearing my brand new WHITE shoes on this call. Should have realized the first call I would wear them on would be a bloody one.

While waiting at the hospital the police officer who came to the hospital with us needed the crew's names and birthdays. Why? Oh just the fact we were in a crime scene and it needed to go in the file. That's defiantly a first... walking around in a crime scene. It's true what they say, the world of EMS is crazy and you really can't make this stuff up!

Although I'm still a new EMT I wish I was more into getting on the rig and learning all I can. When I do get on the rig, I'm learning to ask questions on why certain things were done. I asked some questions last night and now if I'm ever in a similar situation I'll know what should be done. And what's sad is the fact that these crazy calls happen. Like last night's stabbing. You really have to wonder what goes through people's minds. I guess logic and knowing right from wrong go right out the window when your mad enough. Seems last night's victim experienced that first hand.

Tonight I'm signed up for another night of duty crew. Wonder what it will bring me..

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Quick Rundown

Let me start off by saying Hello to everyone. In this post I will be giving you all a little info about me, and a quick rundown of what I will be blogging about. So lets see first of all I am a 24 year old male from ft lauderdale, florida. I am a huge yankees fan cause thats the baseball that I grew up with. Some of my hobbies include any sport, poker, anything to do with Disneyworld, Madden and Fifa for XBOX 360, and fantasy baseball and football.

So what will I be blogging about. I will take everyone thru the state/national EMT Exam, job hiring process, and continue on with all the other exciting stuff I encounter related to this wonderful job of helping people. I will be a third generation FF/Medic so I have some cool stories that have been passed on. If you have any questions about getting into the service or the hiring process you can send them to me at and I will help you out when I have an answer.

Goodluck and stay safe all,
Joe T.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Traffic Law & Safety

Even though I have a number of stories to tell, I've been resisting the urge to dive into my war chest. For this blog, I'm trying to limit myself to things that have just happened to me during my recent shifts. This means it'll probably be a rant, but then there isn't much about that I can do.

For today's anecdote, I have chosen the topic of family members following emergency vehicles. From a traffic law stand point, just because someone that you are related to is in back of a rig, this doesn't give you this right to blow through traffic control devices and cut people off. You would think that this would be obvious but I can't tell you how many times I'll look in the side view mirror and see a car with its four ways on, tailing me and cutting through lights. Hell, last month I had a family cut between my trailing ALS intercept unit, almost hitting them!

I know that you need to be by your family member but really, this is unsafe and just stupid. There is nothing more that you can do for them. Any information that the hospital needs will either be obtained by us or can be acquired after you get there. Not to mention that after you arrive all you'll be doing is sitting in the waiting room until they come to get your insurance information.

Driving emergency vehicles for as long as I have, I can tell you that it's hard enough having people see us with all of the lights on and the sirens blaring. Try getting cut off by a little black car with its four ways on. And I wouldn't even mention what will happen if the cops catch you.

In the end, just use your head and take your time. I know your first reaction is to be near your loved one. If that's the case leave the car and take a ride with us.

Friday, August 15, 2008

My First Call

Seeing as this blog is starting to take off, I'd thought I would contribute another post. This one will actually be about a call, my first call I officered to be exact. The squad I belong to has duty crew nights. You sign up and have to be on the rig for any call that goes from 10:00pm - 5am. I was signed up with another EMT and a driver.. which meant that I wouldn't have to officer and I could just help where it was needed.

The alarm went in and I wasn't really nervous.. probably because I knew I had my ass covered and wouldn't have to officer. As I got into the rig with the other two guys I was signed up with, a second call goes in. Of course, just my luck! My heart dropped. I knew I would have to officer. I started flipping out, and I do mean flipping out. I dropped the f bomb so many times. lol. Luckily the other EMT I was signed up with was also a driver so I took the call with him. We called in service and made our way to the location. It came in as difficulty breathing. We pulled up in front of the house and I recognized the house because we just had this lady a week prior for the same thing.

I won't bore you with the details of the call, because it honestly wasn't anything exciting. I do remember that the medic was very mean but I was grateful for having her there because she did all the work and I didn't have to give the report to the ED Nurse upon arrival.

Sorry everyone, my posts aren't anything exciting or bragging worthy. Like I have said in my very first post, I'm a new EMT and don't have many calls under my belt.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Introduction

I can honestly say I was rather flattered to be asked to contribute to a project like this. I see what I do as just that - what I do, it's my job. I don't take it well when called a hero, I get uncomfortable when people tell me how awesome my job is or ask me if it's exciting or tell me how amazing it is I get to save lives. I love what I do, don't get me's way more than a pay check. I can't imagine myself anywhere but on an ambulance. I just don't see it as something so special like the "outsiders" do.

I took an EMT class at the suggestion of a friend. Every other job I tried just left me bored and uninspired. The class was $75 and gave me something to do for a summer. Even if I hated it, it was no huge loss. I started running on trucks as a student once I got my CPR card, even though the program I went through didn't require it. I have a fear of failure and I didn't want to be a gung-ho EMT, fresh out of school, who freaked out on my first call. Before even carrying a state EMT card, I had been on all types of calls - psych emergencies, cardiac emergencies, strokes, traumas, pediatrics, and even a cardiac arrest one Sunday morning in church. The more I ran on the truck, the more I got comfortable, the more I liked it, and the more it became my life.

Two years later, I'm on the payroll with 3 different ambulance providers. Corporate EMS, and two municipal EMS agencies. Both have their pros and cons, and some people are better suited for one as opposed to the other. There will always be little things that irritate me, be it management decisions, stupid policies, or useless partners. However, I can say that every day when I come home from work, I feel like I accomplished something and maybe made someone's bad day a little better. My father tells me all the time that he wishes he had a job where he truly got to help people every day, and how proud he is of me for committing myself to something and truly enjoying it, and in the process, learning that money isn't everything.

I don't have many great war stories. Funny ones, sure...but few that everyone hasn't already heard before. I'm just doing my thing out there on the trucks, getting my ducks in a row so I can move on and be a paramedic, and making the choice to make a career out of this crazy little job.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Influence of an Instructor

Jennifer's post made me think about my new EMT class starting in just one week. I've lost count, but, in 25 years, I've trained a lot of people and sent them into the EMS world as EMTs. I enjoy teaching EMTs even more than paramedics. They're a clean sheet of paper and are ready to learn, then, go out and save the world.

I'm proud of the way our class is run. When we started 12 years ago there was also a fire and police academy which held a rigid posture and high standards. We adopted it and still maintain it which is a departure from how most EMT classes are managed.

Kids right out of high school have a hard time wearing uniforms and realizing they will get locked out of a quiz if they're late from a break or don't have thier ID badge. Only when they leave do they understand why we do what we do to prepare them for the world of EMS. Some have become lifelong friends, and many I see again in the recert classes in subsequent years. They send me
e-mails to tell me they're at the top of their fire academy class and felt it was the discipline we gave them that got them there. I had a student who went to a disaster assignment during hurricane Katrina and was thrown into an experience that was way over his head. He told me later that the constant memorization we made them do on ABCs, CMSTP, AVPU, OPQRST, SAMPLE etc. came back to him when he needed it. I've watched my students become RNs, PAs, public health administators and ambulance company executives. One is a medical writer for a hospital system.

One of my most profound memories was walking into my class on September 12, 2001 to 50 wide-eyed and confused people. I realized most of them were too young to have ever had any threat to their basic sense of security. The age range was 18-62 and their reactions were all over the map. I had to wonder how the death of 300+ firefighters in New York was going to affect their career goals. Some left, most stayed. My critical incident stress management training kicked in and that day was about sharing our feelings of fear, and violation, and anger. Six weeks later my Disaster Medical Assistance Team was deployed there. Myself and one other student, a police officer, were gone for two weeks. It was years later before I realized the huge impact that had on my students. They were proud that we made that contribution and it gave them even more incentive to become one of the special ones who are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Do I get tired sometimes. Yeah. The "deer in the headlights" first night, the "high maintenance" individuals; the ones that have a tired excuse for always being late; the "minimalists"; the ones that always seem to know more of my lecture material than I do ... Out of each class, though, there are always a few shining stars. They are the ones I feel good about, the ones I know will make a difference. There are also the ones I watch struggling through the semester, but want it badly enough to fight for it. They have perservence and motivation. They come back 2 or 3 times, but are ready for the world when they eventually succeed.

Sometimes I'm lucky enough to learn where my students have gone with their lives, or that they were the ones to step up when a child was drowning, an old man went into cardiac arrest, or they need to triage a fatal head-on collision on Vasco Road. I can take pride in thier accomplishments. That makes it worth doing all over again.

Learning About Beginnings and Ends in the ER

Hello everyone, my name is Jen and I'm a new EMT. When I was approached and asked if i would contribute a post or two about the world of EMS and the craziness involved, I was excited about telling my stories. But than I remember that I don't have many stories at all. Seeing as I'm new and don't have many calls under my belt, I began thinking about the calls I have been on, and none of them are "bragging" worthy. Lol.

The only time I can remember like it was yesterday was the first time I did chest compressions. I wasn't even an EMT at the time. In fact I was doing my required hospital hours when a code was brought through the hospital doors. All the nurses just threw me in the trauma room and pushed me towards the poor guy who wasn't breathing. I stepped up (just a tad bit nervous). I began chest compressions and the trauma room that was filled with doctors and nurses all broke out into cheering and applause. I couldn't help but smile until I looked down and realized this man was dead and probably wasn't coming back.

Sadly the guy didn't make it. I talked to the nurses and a medic who was doing hospital time as well and they both drilled me with tons of questions. Than I was asked who would go to the morgue and with some hesitation I decided to go. Never having been to a morgue before, I was filled with trepidation! In the end though, one thing I did learn was you can't lock someone in the freezer. Lol.

Well I hope everyone enjoys this little post. And I look forward to reading other posts!

Monday, August 11, 2008

When to Call 911

A few years ago, after responding to a series of "Taxi" calls in the dead of night, I generated this list and posted it on my MySpace page and my personal blog. I recieved some rave reviews and thought it would fit in good here.

When to call 911:

1. When you or someone you know stops breathing, moving, or a combination of both.
2. When you or someone you know gets hit by a truck, car, or something that is moving fast enough that the kinetic energy transfer will cause bodily harm.
3. You or someone you know has taken an over abundance of an illegal substance and it has caused you to fall into number 1’s category.
4. You or someone you know fallen from a great height and one of your appendages is now angled funny and you can’t move it.
5. You or someone you know is bleeding uncontrollably.
6. The law states that anything that is a perceived threat is cause to activate the emergency system.

Although number 6 covers a broad range of situations, here are some helpful hints as to what shouldn’t be perceived threats.

1. You’ve dropped a sofa on you big toe three weeks ago. It’s 3 in the morning and you just noticed your nail turned black.
2. You can’t sleep and you think the ambulance or hospital will help.
3. You’ve had a fight with you significant other and you find solace in laying on an active railroad crossing. Though this is more of a cry for help, skip the dramatics and just call a shrink or couples counselor.
4. You’ve just had sex a few hours ago then realize your partner is “coyote ugly” so you fake passing out.
5. You feel nervous because your internet connection went down.
6. You feel nervous because your car is low on gas.
7. During the course of your suicide attempt, you choke on the very pills that were going to kill you an hour from now.
8. You feel nervous because your cell phone bill is too high.
9. You can’t sleep and you have a toothache. I know I already mentioned can’t sleep, but even with the toothache added, it’s still not a threat.
10. You feel nervous because the rent is due.
11. You noticed that the toe nail from number 1 has fallen off.
12. You feel nervous that the toe nail fell off.
13. You fell nervous that your beer is empty.
14. You are out of beer.

The Declaimer:

The above stated shouldn’t be perceived or construed as an actual list of accurate information of what to do in an emergency situation. It simply depicts a jovial rant that because of the mood I’m in this morning, felt the need to post. If you or someone you know feels that they need assistance, please call for help!

Humor in EMS

After my update post this morning, I began to think about some funny calls that I have responded to over the years. After smiling and laughing to myself for a second, I was then reminded that our humor in emergency services is a singular one. One that can often be construed by the general public as being crass or uncaring.

It's easy for us to forget that the rest of the world doesn't experience things the way we do. And in that capacity, we have a habit of developing an "interesting" humor about things. The easiest way I've found to describe this to people who are not in the field is this. We have very few options when it comes to our feelings about the things that we see out there. After all, for the most part we're seeing people during probably the hardest moments in their lives, how could we joke about that. Well, either we joke about it or keep it all inside and take everything to heart. Those that have followed the second option are doomed to burn out or drive themselves, their loved ones or their partners up a wall.

When this topic comes up, I am reminded of a sign the use to be posted in one of the inner city ER's I use to frequent. I love to quote it because it breaks the issue down succinctly.

"Please excuse us if we are laughing or appearing to be having a good time. This may cause you to think that we are uncaring but please understand, it's how we deal with things."

Need I say more? I just wanted to explain for those that may visit here, so that they won't come away with a bad taste in their mouth because some of the humor might be misunderstood.


Good morning. Just a quick update, as I have to get ready for work and a little girl to prep for daycare. I'm excited to report that I've gotten a lot of feedback from other interested emergency service providers around the globe. That means that this blog will be filled with all sorts of stories from far off places that I'll probably never visit!

I do just want everyone to keep in mind that you can never make this stuff up. After eighteen years, I've seen some strange, disturbing and "funny" things. But in my wildest dream I'd never be able to think any of this stuff up if I had to! Actually, I think I think I have an interesting idea for my next post.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Ambulance Chaser

Though this term is usually associated with lawyers looking for clients, in this post I will be using this term to describe those people who, for whatever reason, feel the need to follow ambulances around and try to help the personnel.

Now the truth is I haven't thought about this topic for years, since my last "stalker" finally stopped showing up to our CPR scenes. But last week during not one but two different shifts, spread out between three different townships, we had an admirer following us.

Now there will be some out there that will scratch their heads and wonder what the issue is. I mean isn't more hands on a scene always better. In fact, depending on the scene, this may very be true. But the world of public safely has been know to attract some strange people to its bright lights. Stopping once at an accident scene to help the ambulance crew lift a heavy patient is one thing, but to purchase a scanner and listen for your favorite crew to receive a call is something totally different.

As emergency responders, we're always taught about scene safety. Whether it's from the dangers of on coming traffic, a power line falling or some nut job following us around all day, it's all the same thing. We don't know what your intentions are now do we? Not to mention the weird feeling you get when you look out your driver-side window and see the toothy grin of someone who you just saw the day before, several towns over, waving a scanner at you asking if you need help.

The long and the short of it is, please just understand that while we appreciate the help, we have to be concerned with the safety of not only ourselves but our patients and their families.

Monday, August 4, 2008

In The Beginning...

Salutations, my name is Chris. Welcome to my little corner of this thing that we call the internet. So what is this blog all about you ask? Well I've had this idea knocking around for awhile and finally decided that even though I'm not to sure how this idea will exactly take shape, the only way to find out is just to do it. The general idea is to express ideas and experiences in my life as I travel in through the Emergency Medical Services in New Jersey. Though I don't consider myself an authority in this field by any stretch of the imagination, after 18 years on a truck you do learn a thing or two.

My EMS career started in 1990 when I joined my local volunteer first aid squad. For those of you that don't understand what this is, think of an ambulance company but staffed with people who don't get paid. The training is the same as if they were receiving compensation though between the paid and volly services there is always animosity.

As for myself, in the last eighteen years I've been on both sides of the fence. Either running emergency calls for my volly squad, doing non emergency transports for various transport companies or my current position as a paid EMT. So if anyone ever starts up the argument about who is better, I always maintain the truth, there are flakes on both side of the fence.

So the reason for this blog is kind of a simple one. Anyone who has been in this field long enough knows that getting burned out is just a matter of time and mind set. There are things that we as emergency providers can do, but serving the public is never easy. I could use the old adage about the guy standing in front of the damn with his finger plugging a hole. Every time a new hole appears, he sticks in another finger. Before he knows it, he's out of fingers and the holes still keep coming. This is the same in any field of public service. The call for help is never ending. Night or day it will always be there.

To off set the things that we see, humor and venting needs to take place. If you hold it all inside, you'll go insane. As a wise man once said, you can't change what's out there, only how you're coming at it. So I guess that's the easiest way to explain this blog.

If it's one thing there will always be enough of in this field, it's something to complain about, especially in this great state of ours. Either from volunteer squads that can't do the job anymore but won't take steps to change, to the state shutting down hospitals where they are needed the most. Yes, I'm sure there will always be something that I'll be commenting on with my unique, warped humor.

I should mention that anything I say here is not the views or feelings of any agency that I currently am or in the past have been affiliated with. These views are mine and mine alone. Unlike my main blog or Twitter, the posts here will be strictly about my life in EMS.

EMS Taxi, what's that about? Well the name is just a reflection of my humor. Yes, believe it or not there is a whole legion
of people out there who call 911 not for emergencies, but because they're too lazy to call for a cab. They are under the mistaken impression that they'll be seen quicker if they arrive at the Emergency Department by ambulance. This is a huge misconception, one that in the long run can cost time and lives.

In any event, I'm excited to see how this developers. Please bare with me as I work on the site to make it better and more attractive as the months go by. I am a very busy boy and will do my best. Please feel free to leave comments on anything that gets posted here. And if anyone is interested, in the future I would love to have guest authors every now and then to post their experiences far away from my little corner of the world.