The Case for the Cross-Trained, Multi-Role Firefighter/Paramedic

Recent debate in Washington, DC, and other places around the country centers on whether a fire-EMS system is best served by cross-trained, multi-role firefighter/paramedics or single-role paramedics who are not firefighters. To understand the debate...


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Another key critical component of running a highly effective EMS system in an especially busy environment is the need to rotate paramedics off busy ambulances. Paramedics who are one dimensional and are not cross-trained as firefighters cannot work on engine or truck companies. Thus, historically in cities where a third-service operates, those paramedics seem to burn out more quickly and frequently.

Soon, it’s my hope, in communities where there is a fire-based EMS system and the paramedics are not cross-trained as firefighters, change will occur to allow that to happen.


Gary Ludwig, MS, EMT-P, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a deputy fire chief with the Memphis, TN, Fire Department. He has 28 years of fire-rescue service experience, and previously served 25 years with the City of St. Louis, retiring as the chief paramedic from the St. Louis Fire Department. Ludwig is vice chairman of the EMS Section of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), has a master’s degree in business and management, and is a licensed paramedic. He is a frequent speaker at EMS and fire conferences nationally and internationally. He can be reached through his website at www.garyludwig.com.