EMS Personnel Safety Reviewed after EMT Injured
HARLINGEN – An arrest this week stemming from an assault to an emergency medical service personnel is raising the question of safety in the profession.
When 9-1-1 receives a call, they dispatch emergency medical service personnel immediately. Their goal is to get to the patient as quickly as possible. Safety is their priority; theirs is not guaranteed.
Rene Perez, Director of Patient Transport Services of the South Texas Emergency Care Foundation, says, "I've had guns pulled on me and knives. People just don't want to go to the hospital, or they are upset and they want to make sure that you are not there. So, they'll threaten you with whatever they have."
Perez is going on 30 years as a paramedic. He knows medics face threats from patients struggling with mental health problems.
"You really have to be on guard because at any moment they can go from being a very calm patient to a very irate patient," he says.
Perez says they receive de-escalation training to help calm patients down. If facing a threat to their personal safety, they will pull back.
"We train our folks to look at the scene and evaluate the scene. If they don't feel comfortable then they need to leave the scene until we have help from law enforcement," explained Perez.
In Harlingen, all the STEC systems are equipped with a safety feature – a panic button.
Perez explained, "If you were to hit that panic button on your portable radio, it opens up the frequency and then law enforcement, the fire department, and EMS is all aware that your mic is open and we know that there is an emergency that is going on at that location."
Then help gets sent their way.
Verbal assault are the most common form of violence that profession faces. While it may not lead to hospital visits, it doesn't help with the increased suicide rates experienced by EMS.
According to the Journal of EMS, JEMS, the national average of suicide contemplation is 3.7% while it's 37% among EMS. Actual attempts is also 6% more among emergency response personnel compared to the average American.
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