Who’s Da Boss? (Firefighters, Paramedics, or Police?)

Many of you have probably seen the news article regarding a California police officer arresting a firefighter at an accident scene because he would not move his truck when asked (ahem- FIRE truck). According to news sources, “The city’s firefighters were first to arrive on the scene, where they parked their fire trucks in a way to block oncoming traffic and protect those at the crash site.”

firefighterarrest (1)

This photo evokes a lot of emotions for a lot of people in the field. There are rumors that San Diego police and fire services have had sour relations for a long time.

(Read the rest of the story here: http://rt.com/usa/california-cop-arrests-firefighter-crash-912/ )

I think in this situation most of us will agree that the officer was in the wrong. Firefighters are trained how to park their vehicles to protect patients and personnel while working on an emergency scene. Detaining the firefighter left his crew short handed. This means his crew mates had to shoulder more work and possibly lent to a longer scene time. Time to definitive care is the biggest game changer for critical patients. Think about it. Furthermore, when the public witnesses altercations among emergency personnel it instills distrust of the services. This is a huge problem (bye bye funding).

Another story emerged recently from West Chester where two firefighters were actually put in jail after yelling obscenities at police and physically assaulting them at a crash scene. Again the issue was regarding scene control. (Read the story here: http://www.firerescue1.com/fire-chief/articles/1673348-S-C-fire-chief-arrested-after-scuffle-with-cops-at-crash-scene/ ) In this case I think most of us will agree that assaulting an officer is always the wrong thing to do. It also seems like a big ICS (Incident Command System) refresher would be useful for everyone. Perhaps even taught in the same classroom.

I am lucky enough to work in an area where positive cross-agency relationships have been developed. Most of us are quite happy to see our fire and RCMP counter parts. They provide more hands, more eyes, and more support.

This isn’t to say every day is a love fest.

A while ago my partner and I attended a call for a structure fire. It was an abandoned building turned to ashes and the situation seemed unlikely to yield any patients. We remained on scene getting information from bystanders and keeping an eye on our busy fire fighting brethren. At some point a police officer approached us and “dismissed us” from scene. My partner and I prickled. It felt like she was telling us how to do our job (when in reality she probably thought she was doing us a favor by giving us an out). What she probably didn’t know is that we often standby on fire calls. Injuries (not to mention heart attacks) are no stranger to firefighters on duty. Plus, it was the middle of the night and if anyone was going to clear us it would be the firefighters actually trudging around in the rubble.

In reality, most emergency responders are overworked, under appreciated, and could probably use a bathroom break. It’s easy when tension is high and rest has been negligible to rub each other the wrong way. This is not an excuse to strip off our professionalism and lay each other out bar room style.

Firemen protest against sector budget cuts in Barcelona


 It would be too easy to say- firefighters control fire and extrication scenes, paramedics control medical scenes, and the police control criminal/legally suspicious scenes. Often these matters are overlapping and complicated- which is why it’s so important to have respect for each other’s role, duties and intent. The big picture is that all emergency response personnel have the duty to serve and protect the public (and resuscitate when necessary 😉 ).

My suggestion would be, particularly for areas of known contention, that a thorough cross-agency SOP be developed to outline scene control.

A rough generic example:

MVC  Scene Control During Patient Extrication/Stabilization

Police: scene safety, detainment of uninjured suspects, manual traffic control

Fire: scene safety, extrication, assist with patient stabilization under paramedic direction, secure scene appropriately using fire apparatus

Paramedics: scene safety, patient extrication/stabilization, medical control

Yes scene safety is everyone’s’ primary responsibility. As ICS suggests, a safety officer would need to be designated to address issues as they arise (someone working outside the hot-zone). Post extrication roles could be modified as personnel becomes available and new goals are identified (scene clean-up, patient transport, scene reconstruction/evidence gathering, etc).

SOP or not, the only thing I know for sure is that an emergency scene is no place to host a pissing contest.

So put your d*cks away; we have work to do.




PS-  Another awesome article on Who’s the Boss (Police or EMS): http://www.ems1.com/ems-advocacy/articles/1476128-Police-and-EMS-Who-s-the-boss/




(1) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2553107/The-moment-police-officer-handcuffs-firefighter-trying-rescue-victims-rollover-crash-busy-highway.html

(2) http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/may/29/eurozone-crisis-china-imf-ec-deficit

(3) https://www.facebook.com/OriginsComics/photos/pb.564556896909794.-2207520000.1392835935./695243780507771/?type=3&theater


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