THE WALL BETWEEN FIRE AND EMS
I work for a large city dept. that has its own ambulance transport. Up until around 4 yrs. ago the fire and ems divisions were seperete. Before that time the emergency units were staffed with 2 paramedics. The units have always been housed in the fire stations and dispatched by the F.D. At that time very few fire companies were staffed with EMTs and the first responder program was very weak. Firefighters and paramedics kept their distance from each other with the ems personnel being looked down upon. We'll, after the FLSA lawsuit all that begain to change for the MFD. A pilot program was put into place to cross train paramedics as firefighters and rotate them onto the fire companies. Somewhere along that time the city decided to start training new fire recruits as EMTs. As of today most fire companies have EMTs assigned to them, and we have 23 ALS fire companies. The way the system works now is a ststion with a unit assigned to it also has a ALS fire company.(EXAMPLE: Station 29 has E-29, T-19, and U-6. T-19 is the ALS company and the primary first responder company). No one is assigned to the units anymore. All personnel are assigned to fire companies with the paramedics only being assigned to stations with units in them. EMTs and paramedics are now "detailed" to the units with EMTs drawing a out of rank(emergency unit operator) pay and paramedics drawing nothing. When a EMT is on the unit he/she makes 1 cent less p/hr than a paramedic. EMTs are detailed by name per division. So, in a division with only 3 or 4 units and a long list of EMTs they only have to ride once every 4 or 5 work cycles. Each ALS company has at least 2 paramedics assigened to them, and a small # have 3(like mine). The stations with 2 rotate on and off the unit every other work cycle. In my case every third set we are detailed out(usually to a unit). At times this rotation is very poor with some paramedics riding up to 9 days straight on the unit. This my not sound like much, but most of our units avg. 10-12 calls per 24hr shift with some running as many as 20. This can tear you down quickly. Our rotation is supposed to be 50/50 at the least. Like most departments we have a high ems call load vs fire. I was hired on as a firefighter/paramedic. I am proud to be both( my true love is firefighting). However, I am treated like second class by many of my own brothers and sisters. Many of them think that because my shirt has paramedic on it I am less of a firefighter. They dread the unit tone in the middle of the night, but yet they get to roll over and go gack to sleep as soon as the vocal is answered. Many of the "uppers" of the department still feel as if fire and ems should be seperete. Most of the EMTs were put through the departments program when they were hired on. This program is not as strict as the college level coarse. Once they finish the fire acadmey they are placed on a fire company(some on a non first responder company)to not ride the units for a entire year. Many of their skills are lost during this time and some pick up the attitudes that they are only ambulance drivers when detailed to the units. It would not be to far off to say that my department supports this way of thinking. I am lucky however. I have a company Lt. that enjoys having paramedics and EMTs under him. He sees that as being a great asset to him. The EMT that is stationed with me is just as good as many of the paramedics I have worked with. I wonder though what our department is going to do when paramedics start making driver or Lt.? Will they still find a way to put us on the units? It is sad to say but my department is very reactive when it comes to ems issues. Let me finish by letting whoever reads this know that I do not feel as if I am above FFs or FF/EMTs. I perform all of my duties to the best of my ability, and almost always get along with everyone I work with. I just dont understand this huge wall between fire and ems. We are all out there to do the same job. Now, with all this being said is my department the only one with this problem, or are their others out there? Let me know.....
[This message has been edited by ejeter (edited November 28, 1999).]