Thread: THE WALL BETWEEN FIRE AND EMS
11-28-1999, 02:45 AM #1ejeterFirehouse.com Guest
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).]
11-30-1999, 03:41 AM #2GrizzlyBearFirehouse.com Guest
Unfortunately this is a prolific problem in almost any department that has not run medical calls and has been "forced" into doing so. The answer to the problem is very difficult. In part it is no different than simple territory....Ever seen a cop put out a fire??? same thing...firefighters are suppose to fight fires....EMS is for EMS...and law enforcement is for Cops. In the world we live in today....with budgets, changes in call types, etc....these lines are getting blurred....multi-role positions are becoming more favored....FF/Medic...HazMat, Dive,EOD, SAR, USAR, whatever the specialty...more amd more cities are using existing employees/structure to fill these positions... some use Cops for Bomb Squad....some use the FD...some use PD to run ambulances....some use FD..Divers can come from both....rescue...I had never seen a cop with the jaws of life until I saw an episode of "Cops" in NYC... I have been on both sides...as an "ambulance driver" and as a VFF in a fire only dept... The concept of having firefighters only fight fire...has gone by the wayside and as with any organization steeped in tradition....change is difficult at best...all you can do is to make the best of it...until the "powers that be" figure out how to do these integrations better....and to promote harmony....we are all stuck....some in worse situations than others....I hope my ramblings have made some sense
12-07-1999, 12:07 PM #3Rick BondFirehouse.com Guest
In this day of budget cuts and down sizeing we in Emergency Services must remember the Who, What, When, Where & Why of what were doing. Several years ago we the fire department put the wet stuff on the red stuff, but in todays new and advanced world putting the wet stuff on the red stuff could blow up in our faces. We must be able to convey to our community leaders that it may look good on paper that we can hire one person to do three different jobs, but how much can we really handle. The fire service is growing in leaps and bounds when it comes to handling the fire scene. Todays fire scene is no longer a fire scene but a HAZMAT scene needing the cooperation of all areas of the emergency services. Administators must also understand that while that house is burning down, banks are being robbed, & babies are being born.
The walls between Fire & EMS has been put their by all of us with different thoughts of who we are. The fire department has a long & extensive history, while EMS is fairly young with no real history. The firefighter ego has always been of a superman. Call us and we will come, but with EMS we must take a different approach. Call us and we will send someone that has the equipment & the training of a mobile E.R.
Not every one can do this so we have just put up a wall. To run an EMS unit takes as much if not more money than it takes to run an Engine company, i.e. budget constraints and another wall. This whole thing can be a complicated matter. The answer to the problem is what is right for your area, then educating all thoughs involved to include the citizens of your community.
THESE THING WE DO SO OTHERS MAY LIVE!
12-10-1999, 06:59 PM #4jest129Firehouse.com Guest
My department has been EMS since I started, the way I understand it we have always had some sort of EMS since the start-up of our department in 194?. But the wall is still there, it might have a lot of holes but it exists. I am a Paramedic Captain, all our BC's are Paramedic's and our Chief as well, so we have support.
We have 4 stations but Station 1 is the busiest by far, anywhere between 10 to 30 EMS/Fire (90%EMS)calls a day. We normally run 2 to 3 Paramedics out of that station. FF, Engineers and Capts Paramedics run on the ambulances. We staff for calls, if there is an ambulance left in the station, it goes. All members are required to be EMT's, all new members are required to get their Paramedic within 1 to 2 yrs.
Most Captains try to rotate the medics so they get on the engine once in a while. We rotate stations every 3 to 4 months which is sometimes a hassel but every department member get their share at the busiest station, no matter seniority or rank.
If I had to make a choice between Firefighting and being a medic I would choose to be a FF as a lot of other medics would choose. After saying that, I love being a medic, it is great. I also like running calls and making a difference in the outcome of patients.
With shrinking budgets, Fire Departments should be thanking their FF/Medics, they are a valuable resource. Tax payers should expect a lot for the money, with the number of fires on the decrease and medical calls on the increase, medics are what F. Departments need, just having plain Firefighters is not a good use of our money!
Good luck, and be safe.
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