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  1. 1. JULY 2012 Always En Route At
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  5. 5. The Conscience of EMS JOURNAL OF EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES 32 I Rethinking Delivery Models I EMS industry may shift deployment methods By Johnathan D. Washko, BS-EMSA, NREMT-P, AEMD [July 2012] July 2012 Vol. 37 No. 7 Contents I 52 38 I Engulfed in an Instant I Lessons learned from Navy jet crash response y Bruce Nedelka, NREMT-P A.J. Heightman, MPA, EMT-P B 52 I No Need for Speed I Improving accuracy of nursing home response-level requests y Lori L. Boland, MPH, Steve G. Hagstrom, NREMT-P B I 60 60 I Silent Struggle I Drowning is a leading cause of unintentional injury death y Justin Sempsrott, MD; Andrew Schmidt, DO, MPH; B Seth Hawkins, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, FAWM; Bryan Bledsoe, DO, FACEP, FAAEM I 38 Departments columns 9 I Load go I Now on 14 I EMS in Action I Scene of the Month 16 I From the Editor I Return to Joplin y A.J. Heightman, MPA, EMT-P B 20 I Letters I In Your Words 22 I Priority Traffic I News You Can Use 26 I lEADERSHIP sECTOR I Discipline y Gary Ludwig, MS, EMT-P B 28 I Tricks OF the TRADE I Old Friends y Thom Dick B 30 I case of the month I More Than a Headache y Fred W. Wurster III, AAS, NREMT-P B 78 I employment Classified Ads 82 I Ad Index 84 I Hands On I Product Reviews from Street Crews y Fran Hildwine B 88 I The Lighter Side I Young’ns of EMS y Steve Berry B 90 I LAST WORD I The Ups Downs of EMS About models thatCoverand effective allow the prehospital industry to innovate, the are efficient Service delivery improve evidence-based clinical practice and make the shift to more immediate care in the field. Read more about service delivery models in “Rethinking Delivery Models: EMS industry may shift deployment methods,” p. 32–36, and see how your service measures up. Photo Premier Media Partner of the IAFC, the IAFC EMS Section Fire-Rescue Med July 2012 JEMS 7
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  7. 7. LOAD GO  log in for EXCLUSIVE CONTENT A Better Way to Learn online continuing education program n us o follow Rescue Resusitate Photo Bryan E. Bledsoe The word “summer” is often synonymous with the word “water.” Unfortunately for EMS providers, it also means more awareness on how to treat drowning patients. We’ve got you covered. Check out the bonus content for this month’s clinical education article, “Silent Struggle: Drowning is a leading cause of unintentional injury death,” pp. 60–76. And for those of you who champion the cause, it also includes more information on the non-profit group Lifeguards Without Borders. s offers you original content, jobs, products and resources. But we’re much more than that; we keep you in touch with your colleagues through our: Facebook fan page; JEMS Connect site; Twitter account; LinkedIn profile; Product Connect site; and Fire EMS Blogs site. like us /jemsfans Free online Learning Opportunities! We believe learning is a lifelong commitment. We also think there’s a lot of knowledge to be had in EMS, and we bet most EMS professionals would agree. That’s why we’ve increased the number of free webcasts we’re offering. Make sure to register for one or all of them today. s follow us /jemsconnect Sponsored Product Focus Flow-Safe II CPAP System The Flow-Safe II CPAP system with built-in manometer from Mercury Medical is now delivering more than 10 cm H2O at 15 LPM while using 50% less oxygen. Flow-Safe II has all of the benefits of the original CPAP system with superior safety features and performance, while consuming less oxygen. It doesn’t require special high-flow equipment. Flow-Safe II also delivers consistent CPAP pressure on inhalation and exhalation. No extra parts—it comes assembled with a deluxe mask, manometer and pressure-relief valve all in one disposable setup package. Clinicians can easily attach a nebulizer in-line for patients requiring aerosol inhalation medication with CPAP therapy. s Check out their ad and Hot Product listing! get connected about=gid=113182 ems news alerts June Poll Results How long have you been in EMS? 8% Less than one year. votes More than 20 years. 22 24% 2–5 years. Check it out 26% % 11–20 years. 20% 6–10 years. The mobile version s questions/10150693378539794/ best bloggers JULY 2012 JEMS 9
  8. 8. Conscience of EMS JOURNAL OF EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES The Conscience of EMS JOURNAL OF EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES Editor-In-Chief I A.J. Heightman, MPA, EMT-P I MANAGING Editor I Jennifer Berry I associate eDITOR I Lauren Hardcastle I assistant eDITOR I Allison Moen I assistant eDITOR I Kindra Sclar I online news/blog manager I Bill Carey I Medical Editor I Edward T. Dickinson, MD, NREMT-P, FACEP Technical Editors Travis Kusman, MPH, NREMT-P; Fred W. Wurster III, NREMT-P, AAS Contributing Editor I Bryan Bledsoe, DO, FACEP, FAAEM Editorial Department I 800/266-5367 I art director I Liliana Estep I Contributing illustrators Steve Berry, NREMT-P; Paul Combs, NREMT-B Contributing Photographers Vu Banh, Glen Ellman, Craig Jackson, Kevin Link, Courtney McCain, Tom Page, Rick Roach, Steve Silverman, Michael Strauss, Chris Swabb Director of eProducts/Production I Tim Francis I Production Coordinator I Matt Leatherman I advertising director I Judi Leidiger I 619/795-9040 I Western Account Representative I Cindi Richardson I 661-297-4027 I senior Sales coordinator I Elizabeth Zook I Sales Administrative Coordinator I Liz Coyle I SENIOR eMedia campaign manager I Lisa Bell I advertising department I 800/266-5367 I Fax 619/699-6722 marketing director I Debbie Murray I Marketing manager I Melanie Dowd I Marketing Conference Program Coordinator I Vanessa Horne I Director, Audience Development Sales Support I Mike Shear I Audience development coordinator I Marisa Collier I SUBSCRIPTION DEPARTMENT I 888/456-5367 REprints, eprints Licensing I Wright’s Media I 877/652-5295 I eMedia Strategy I 410/872-9303 I Managing Director I Dave J. Iannone I Director of eMedia Sales I Paul Andrews I Director of eMedia Content I Chris Hebert I EMS Today Conference Exposition reed exhibitions I Ed Several I 203/840-5932 I ems today exhibit sales I 203/840-5473 Kevin Kennedy I elsevier public safety vice president/publisher I Jeff Berend I founding editor I Keith Griffiths founding publisher James O. Page (1936–2004) Choose 16 at
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  10. 10. JOURNAL OF EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES The Conscience of EMS JOURNAL OF EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES EDITORIAL board William K. Atkinson II, PHD, MPH, MPA, EMT-P President Chief Executive Officer WakeMed Health Hospitals James J. Augustine, MD Medical Advisor, Washington Township (OH) Fire Department Director of Clinical Operations, EMP Management Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Wright State University steve berry, NRemt-p Paramedic EMS Cartoonist, Woodland Park, Colo. Bryan E. Bledsoe, DO, FACEP, FAAEM Professor of Emergency Medicine, Director, EMS Fellowship University of Nevada School of Medicine Medical Director, MedicWest Ambulance Criss Brainard, EMT-P Deputy Chief of Operations, San Diego Fire-Rescue Chad Brocato, DHS, REMT-P Assistant Chief of Operations, Deerfield Beach Fire-Rescue Adjunct Professor of Anatomy Physiology, Kaplan University J. Robert (Rob) Brown Jr., EFO Fire Chief, Stafford County, Va., Fire and Rescue Department Executive Board, EMS Section, International Association of Fire Chiefs carol a. cunningham, md, FACEP, FAAEM State Medical Director Ohio Department of Public Safety, Division of EMS Thom Dick, EMT-P Quality Care Coordinator Platte Valley Ambulance Marc Eckstein, MD, MPH, FACEP Director of Prehospital Care, Los Angeles County/ USC Medical Center Medical Director, Los Angeles Fire Department Professor, Emergency Medicine, University of Southern California Charlie Eisele, BS, NREMT-P Flight Paramedic, State Trooper, EMS Instructor Bruce Evans, MPA, EMT-P Deputy Chief, Upper Pine River Bayfield Fire Protection, Colorado District Jay Fitch, PhD President Founding Partner, Fitch Associates Ray Fowler, MD, FACEP Associate Professor, University of Texas Southwestern SOM Chief of EMS, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Chief of Medical Operations, Dallas Metropolitan Area BioTel (EMS) System Adam D. Fox, DPM, DO Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of Trauma Surgery Critical Care, University of Medicine Dentistry of New Jersey Former Advanced EMT-3 (AEMT-3) Gregory R. Frailey, DO, FACOEP, EMT-P Medical Director, Prehospital Services, Susquehanna Health Tactical Physician, Williamsport Bureau of Police Special Response Team 12 JEMS JULY 2012 Jeffrey M. Goodloe, MD, FACEP, NREMT-P Associate Professor EMS Division Director, Emergency Medicine, University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine Medical Director, EMS System for Metropolitan Oklahoma City Tulsa David E. Persse, MD, FACEP Physician Director, City of Houston Emergency Medical Services Public Health Authority, City of Houston Department. of Health Human Services Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center—Houston Keith Griffiths President, RedFlash Group Founding Editor, JEMS John J. Peruggia Jr., BSHuS, EFO, EMT-P Assistant Chief, Logistics, FDNY Operations Dave Keseg, MD, FACEP Medical Director, Columbus Fire Department Clinical Instructor, Ohio State University W. Ann Maggiore, JD, NREMT-P Associate Attorney, Butt, Thornton Baehr PC Clinical Instructor, University of New Mexico, School of Medicine Connie J. Mattera, MS, RN, EMT-P EMS Administrative Director EMS System Coordinator, Northwest (Illinois) Community Hospital Robert J. McCaughan Chair, IAEMSC Metro Chief’s Section Robin B. Mcfee, DO, MPH, FACPM, FAACT Medical Director, Threat Science Toxicologist Professional Education Coordinator, Long Island Regional Poison Information Center Mark Meredith, MD Assistant Professor, Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics, Vanderbilt Medical Center Assistant EMS Medical Director for Pediatric Care, Nashville Fire Department Geoffrey T. Miller, EMT-P Director of Simulation Eastern Virginia Medical School, Office of Professional Development Brent Myers, MD, MPH, FACEP Medical Director, Wake County EMS System Emergency Physician, Wake Emergency Physicians PA Medical Director, WakeMed Health Hospitals Emergency Services Institute Mary M. Newman President, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation Joseph P. Ornato, MD, FACP, FACC, FACEP Professor Chairman, Department of Emergency Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center Operational Medical Director, Richmond Ambulance Authority Jerry Overton, MPA Chair, International Academies of Emergency Dispatch David Page, MS, NREMT-P Paramedic Instructor, Inver Hills (Minn.) Community College Paramedic, Allina Medical Transportation Member of the Board of Advisors, Prehospital Care Research Forum Paul E. Pepe, MD, MPH, MACP, FACEP, FCCM Professor, Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Head, Emergency Services, Parkland Health Hospital System Head, EMS Medical Direction Team, Dallas Area Biotel (EMS) System Edward M. Racht, MD Chief Medical Officer, American Medical Response Jeffrey P. Salomone, MD, FACS, NREMT-P Associate Professor of Surgery, Emory University School of Medicine Deputy Chief of Surgery, Grady Memorial Hospital Assistant Medical Director, Grady EMS Kathleen S. Schrank, MD Professor of Medicine and Chief, Division of Emergency Medicine, University of Miami School of Medicine Medical Director, City of Miami Fire Rescue Medical Director, Village of Key Biscayne Fire Rescue John Sinclair, EMT-P International Director, IAFC EMS Section Fire Chief Emergency Manager, Kittitas Valley Fire Rescue Corey M. Slovis, MD, FACP, FACEP, FAAEM Professor Chair, Emergency Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center Professor, Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center Medical Director, Metro Nashville Fire Department Medical Director, Nashville International Airport Barry Smith, EMT-P CQI Coordinator, Regional EMS Authority (REMSA), Reno, Nev. Walt A. Stoy, PhD, EMT-P, CCEMTP Professor Director, Emergency Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Director, Office of Education, Center for Emergency Medicine Richard Vance, EMT-P Captain, Carlsbad Fire Department Jonathan D. Washko, BS-EMSA, NREMT-P, AEMD Assistant Vice President, North Shore-LIJ Center for EMS Co-Chairman, Professional Standards Committee, American Ambulance Association Ad-Hoc Finance Committee Member, NEMSAC keith wesley, MD, facep Medical Director, HealthEast Medical Transportation Katherine H. West, BSN, MED, CIC Infection Control Consultant, Infection Control/Emerging Concepts Inc. Stephen R. Wirth, Esq. Attorney, Page, Wolfberg Wirth LLC. Legal Commissioner Chair, Panel of Commissioners, Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS) Douglas M. Wolfberg, Esq. Attorney, Page, Wolfberg Wirth LLC Wayne M. Zygowicz, BA, EFO, EMT-P EMS Division Chief, Littleton Fire Rescue
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  12. 12. EMS IN ACTION Scene of the month 14 JEMS JULY 2012 Photo Bernie Deyo
  13. 13. Air Transport E mergency personnel place a patient into a medical helicopter for transport to a trauma center. The patient was ejected from his vehicle after it rolled several times in a remote area. Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD) paramedics provided BLS and ALS care, including assessment, oxygen administration and C-spine precautions, to the patient prior to his airlift. LACoFD operates one of the most progressive, multi-functional helicopter systems in the country, with crews able to perform fire suppression, EMS, search and rescue, and extraction functions via their helicopters. JULY 2012 JEMS 15
  14. 14. from the editor putting issUes into perspective by A.J. HEIGHTMAN, MPA, EMT-P Return to Joplin Crews rebound from the tornado’s horrible aftermath Photo AP/Mark Schiefelbein Photo AP/Mark Schiefelbein meet with the crews and supervisors and speak at a staff picnic on the first anniversary of the tornado, I accepted immediately. METS and NCAD cover the Joplin area in a unique and cooperative response system (see Last Word, p. 90). Many of the region’s EMS, fire personnel and emergency department nurses work for one or both agencies. I arrived in Joplin the day after President Barack Obama’s speech at the Joplin Community College and was not at all surprised to learn that the elected officials, fire crews and law enforcement staff were allowed into the facility, but the EMS crews, the ones who EMS crews were confronted by dead bodies and patients who ranged from having minor injuries to pieces of rebar sticking out of their skulls. 16 would be able to contribute the most if the president or another attendee collapsed during the ceremony, were stationed outside the auditorium at their nine ALS units. It’s a common story that stinks and will probably only change when an elected official chokes to death on a martini olive and it takes 12 minutes for a crew to get to that person’s obstructed airway. The community college, METS and NCAD are an important part of the Joplin tornado history because the tornado tore through the center point of their two primary response districts and dozens of the emergency personnel were at the community college instead of Joplin High School, which was not large enough to hold the high school’s graduation, when the tornado tore through the high school, hospital and their homes minutes after graduation ceremonies had concluded. What follows are photos from that fateful day and my visit. I hope they show you the unimaginable obstacles the METS and NCAD EMS crews faced and how they have rebounded, physically and emotionally, in the year since that horrible day. Photo AP/Charlie Riedel T he tornado that tore through Joplin Mo., on May 22, 2011, killed 165 people and injured 1,500 others; it decimated thousands of homes, business, churches, nursing homes and St. John’s Mercy Hospital—one of the town’s two hospitals. It received international attention for weeks. Much of the attention centered on the many lives lost at one of the nursing homes and St. John’s. Many of the media stories focused on heroic civilian efforts, including road crews that cleared the road early with chainsaws and assisted citizens and firefighters in finding and extricating trapped individuals. But like so many other disasters, the efforts of the local and mutual aid EMS agencies, which found, triaged, treated and transported scores of injured to medical facilities throughout a 12-hour period after the tornado, went largely ignored by the national media. So when Jason Smith, director of Metro Emergency Transport System (METS), and Rusty Tinney, director of the Newton County Ambulance District (NCAD), invited me to JEMS JULY 2012 NCAD EMS Director Rusty Tinney and the first ambulance that arrived at E. 20th St. Range Line Road encountered more than a dozen dead bodies and people searching for relatives and friends who had been sucked out of the walk-in freezer at a fast food restaurant. Only four of the 12 people who tried to take refuge in the freezer survived.
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  16. 16. FROM THE EDITOR This is all that remained of the Greenbriar Nursing Home after the tornado ravaged the area. Eighteen were killed at this location. Photo AP/Charlie Riedel METS NCAD crews established patient collection and treatment areas near the tornado’s path of destruction—a path that traversed both ambulance service areas. Photo AP/Charlie Riedel A.J. Heightman (left) NCAD Director Rusty Tinney stand at the Pizza Hut one year after the incident. Many of the restaurants and stores have already been rebuilt, but the horrible sights seen by the EMS crews will always remain in their memories. Photo AP/Charlie Riedel Photo Courtesy A.J. Heightman continued from page 16 Photo AP/Mark Schiefelbein The remains of Joplin High School, where hundreds of lives would have been lost had the school been used for its graduation ceremony. The school’s sign was modified and became a lasting symbol of hope for the community. Photo AP/Jeff Roberson Photo A.J. Heightman Photo A.J. Heightman St. John’s Mercy Hospital, its emergency department and medical helicopter took a direct hit. Rusty Tinney (left) METS Director A Joplin City building was used as temporary hospi- Jason Smith stand in the temporary multi-section modular hospital tal after the tornado. Temporary trailers were erected after the tornado to house patients and equipment that survived the destruction of St. John’s. 18 JEMS JULY 2012 Photo A.J. Heightman Photo A.J. Heightman Photo A.J. Heightman Members of Missouri Task Force One search-and-rescue team stand by as heavy equipment moves debris from a tornado-damaged Home Depot store. The spacious emergency department of the tempo- Crews from METS NCAD gather to rary prefab, modular, which is now named Mercy remember that fateful day in 2011 at the May 23, 2012, crew picnic. Hospital Joplin.
  17. 17. SaveDATE the New Location! March 5 – March 9, 2013 Washington, D.C. Advance Your Career at EMS Today … Where People, Products and Ideas Connect
  18. 18. LETTERS in your words Photo glen ellman This month, readers comment on a few recent JEMS articles. One reader discusses the information in an article on cultural sensitivity (“Breaking Barriers: Practice cultural sensitivity to provide care to immigrant communities,” May JEMS) by Emily Coffey, BA, NREMT-P, and Keith Widmeier, NREMT-P, CCEMT-P, EMS-I, and another had concerns with the type of care shown in an April EMS in Action photo spread (“Active Assessment.”) Finally, JEMS Facebook fans chime in on a quote by Thom Dick that reminds providers to take extra time to make all patients feel valued. Faith Practices I was mystified by the article “Breaking Barriers,” which had the following in a caption: “Most Americans aren’t opposed to porcine insulin, but Jewish and Muslim patients might choose to accept the risks of hyperglycemia rather than receive this particular medication.” I cannot speak for the Muslim faith, but as an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, my jaw dropped. The first law of Judaism commands us to break every law in order to save a life. There is no objection or law that prohibits the use of porcine insulin. Just the opposite is true: We are commanded to do whatever is necessary in order to save our lives and maintain our health. No person of the Jewish faith would ever accept the risks of hyperglycemia in order to avoid a medication coming from any animal source. I’m extremely confused where the author got this Another day of death, mayhem and chaos over. Wha’cha watching? illustration steve berry 1,000 Ways to Die 20 JEMS JULY 2011 information, and it’s absolutely contrary to our faith. Rabbi Baruch Stone, NREMT-I Cambridge, Massachusetts Author Keith Widmeier, NREMT-P, CCEMT-P, EMS-I responds: According to the informational booklet, Informed Choice in Medicine Taking: Drugs of Porcine Origin and Clinical Alternatives ( pharmacy/npcplus/medicinespartnershipprogramme/ medicinespartnershipprogrammepublications/ drugsofporcineoriginandclinicalalternatives/drugs-ofporcine-origin.pdf), porcine medications may be an issue for a number of faiths, but it’s more likely to be an issue for Judaism and Islam. The booklet goes into discussion about potential exemptions as well. However, I feel that this discussion is straying from the overall message of the article. Regardless of faith—our patients’ or our own—it is imperative that we, as providers, respect the decisions made by our patients. Patients have the right to decide what treatment they choose to accept—or not accept—and providers should not attempt to downplay the importance of the patient’s faith for the desired medical treatment. Check the Basics In the April JEMS article, “Active Assessment,” paramedic Brian Pearce was doing what I call a double pulse check. I teach in a private paramedic college, and I notice all the students are trained to practice this, and I disagree with it. I understand the thought behind it, but we must consider that the American Heart Association (AHA), Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and Journal of the American Medical Association have referenced that 60% of healthcare providers can’t adequately check for a carotid pulse. I’ve taken a dozen students and had them access a carotid pulse, and all 12 couldn’t find a pulse in a timely fashion. We live in a culture of fat necks, meaning many patients have lots of adipose tissue in their necks. Unless a provider uses a head tilt/chin lift to bring carotid artery closer to the surface, how can anyone truly feel a carotid
  19. 19. and radial at the same time? If a medic comes across an unconscious patient, they should assume they’re dead, check a carotid only first, then check a radial if there’s a pulse to see if pressure is adequate. I don’t care if I’m perfusing the finger, but I do care if the brain is being perfused. Let’s just follow AHA guidelines instead of changing what works. Assess responsiveness, open airway and check for breathing and pulse while using a head tilt/chin lift. This step still follows the current 2010 guidelines: If there is no breathing and no pulse, then get on the chest and start compressions. Let’s get back to the basics. Arne Larsen Simcoe County, Ontario, Canada Words of Wisdom Below are comments from the JEMS Facebook Fan page in response to the following quote by columnist Thom Dick: ‘Next time you kneel in front of somebody you don’t know or sit beside someone in that ambulance of yours, look them straight in the eye. While they’re with you, they’re important.’ —Thom Dick —Dennis Youngberg: Treat them as if they were your mother/father. —Moe Altazan: We’re all guilty of this at one time or another. It takes practice and compassion; we have to make it a natural habit. —Marcia Chapman: Too many are paying more attention to their clipboard or computer than to their patients. Building a rapport with your patient is just as important as any of your other skills—it takes practice to develop and ongoing use to master. —Smiley Rie: So very true. It might not be an emergency to us, but to most of them it is. And my other favorite saying is this: “It’s not about our egos; it’s about the patient.” — ohn Michael Fisher: I was taught this during school so now it’s second J nature for me, but I only sit in the jump seat if I’m playing with the monitor, doing something airway, or if the patient falls asleep. I always sit on the bench and play to precept everyone. —Sharon Cox: True words. I can’t stand it when paramedics or EMTs don’t talk to their patients or are too clinical with them. A kind word, a smile, a held hand and a little reassurance goes a long way. —Curtiss Orde: Amen to Thom’s quote. JEMS Do you have questions, comments or concerns about recent JEMS or articles? We’d love to hear from you. E-mail your letters to or send to 525 B St. Suite 1800, San Diego, CA 92101, Attn: Allison Moen. Choose 20 at JULY 2012 JEMS 21
  20. 20. PRIORITYUSE TRAFFIC NEWS YOU CAN Zombie Drug Despite sanction, patients continue to use drug known as ‘bath salts’ tlnors/ T he meteoric rise of the street drug called “bath salts” has taken a grip on prehospital providers and emergency departments (EDs) nationwide. Many experts say they’re most alarmed by the short amount of time it has taken for this drug to become so prominent. Bath salts is the most common street name for certain synthetic cathinones, including methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and methedrone. It’s a broadly available psychoactive drug that mimics the effects of other stimulants such as methamphetamine, ecstasy and cocaine. In 2010, there were 303 calls to poison control centers nationwide for probable Bath salts are stimulants, and their symptoms are simliar to those from methamphetamine, ecstasy and cocaine use. bath salts complications. The first third of 2012 has already resulted in 1,007 calls. If this trend persists, this will equate to more Photos Courtesy NEMSMBR QUICK TAKE During EMS Week, dozens of people from EMS systems all over the U.S. gathered to participate in the 2012 National EMS Memorial Bike Rides (NEMSMBR), with routes starting in both Boston, Mass., and Paintsville, Ky. Both routes ended in Alexandria, Va. The ride is held annually to honor EMS providers who have died in the line of duty and to advocate for safety in EMS and the wellness of EMS providers. Over the seven days, close to 100 riders, called “Muddy Angels,” participated per day on the East Coast route and seven riders on the Kentucky route. Another 20–25, affectionately known as “Wingmen,” provided support. Twentytwo states were represented among the participants. For some, it was a return to the ride, but for others, it was their first ride. For both, many moments and emotions were experienced along the way. The 2012 ride was also especially meaningful for many, as the group rode to honor Lori Foster-Mayfield, a paramedic from Reno, Nev., who died unexpectedly in January. “Due to our previous year’s accounts of the ride, as well as the outpouring of support for Lori and her passion for her profession, 14 people from the Reno area joined us on the ride,” says Trish Hamilton, a flight nurse and Lori’s best friend. “For me, [the decision to ride] was the best decision I could have made. My Muddy Angel family is like no other friendship or family out there. They are some of the best people I have ever known.” It’s a grueling journey, both mentally and physically. However, the spirit of the ride, those who are being honored and the feeling of family among the Muddy Angels heals muscles, hearts and souls. —Tim Perkins Beth Kirkland Davis and Trish Hamilton (above) read during a Memorial Service for Muddy Angel Lori Foster-Mayfield. More of the latest EMS news is at 22 JEMS JULY 2012 than 3,000 calls in 2012; a tenfold increase from 2010. Common side effects include euphoria, anxiety, confusion, insatiable desire for more of the drug and paranoia. Hyperthermia, cardiovascular collapse, rhabdomyolysis and renal sequalae are more severe and potentially fatal consequences of use. It’s crucial that prehospital providers understand the risk for these potentially fatal complications and that ED evaluation, monitoring and treatment is the appropriate definitive therapy. The news headlines continue to publicize the bizarre and severe actions of those abusing this new street drug. The latest shocking
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  22. 22. continued from page 22 headline reveals a crazed individual in Florida who is suspected of chewing off the face of another man after taking bath salts. The suspect has been repeatedly described as a “Zombie,” highlighting the severe psychoactive effects of this medication. Other headlines include suicides, strangulations and homicidal actions by those under the influence. One notable case in West Virginia involved a man who allegedly dressed in women’s clothing and stabbed a stolen goat to death—all while under the influence of bath salts. Prehospital and ED personnel also report bizarre, unpredictable and very dangerous actions from individuals under the influence of bath salts. These patients exhibit dangerous, unpredictable, combative behavior that put bystanders and EMS providers in danger. Treatment modalities include restraining the individual as necessary, providing cardiovascular support, treating hyperthermia and administering benzodiazepine for agitation. This is to prevent harm to the patient, as well as preventing further hyperthermia and muscle activity that could result in rhabdomyolysis. Beta-blocker administration for hypertension is contraindicated because it causes a spike in blood pressure, which is attributed to unabated alpha-adrenergic stimulation.1 In response to the substantial rise in abuse and emergency department visits related to bath salts, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) imposed an emergency sanction classifying MDPV as a Schedule I controlled substance. That puts it in the same category as heroin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Prior to this action, more than 30 individual states had criminalized the drug. For the short term, there are indications that the DEA’s action may be blunting nationwide use of the drug. However, this sanction may have limited long-term consequences because chemists of synthetic drugs may be able to slightly alter the chemical compound so it isn’t classified as the prohibited compound. Examples of alternative chemicals being manufactured to replace the now-illegal bath salts include naphyrone, which is sold as “cosmic blast.” Naphyrone is gaining popularity in Europe and is spreading to the US. Symptoms and dangers are nearly identical to bath salts. EMS providers need to remain vigilant for these potential patients and be aware of the various treatment modalities. They also need to maintain crew safety around these potentially violent patients. —Jon Nevin, NREMT-P, BS, MBA References 1. Michigan Department of Community Health. (April 30, 2012). ‘Bath Salts’ Health Care Provider Fact Sheet. In Michigan. Retrieved June 11, 2012, from Salts_FAQ_Health_Care_Providers_April2012_ v2_384317_7.pdf. Patient Handling Errors The legal risks of gravity By Doug Wolfberg Steve Wirth O ne of the areas of EMS operations that often seems to be taken for granted is patient handling—or “lifting and moving,” as we referred to it in EMT class. Oftentimes, this critical area might be given short shrift in training programs. Changes in technology can also lead to crew member unfamiliarity with the use of new equipment. And sometimes, simple mistakes can allow gravity to overtake our best efforts, resulting in patient drops and other patient handling errors. Although hard data on the number of patient drops is hard to come by, anecdotally, we usually receive a couple of calls a month with these types of cases. The legal defense of “patient drop” cases usually involves a mechanical evaluation of the stretcher and other equipment. But most of the time, this inspection (typically done by a mechanical engineer or other such expert) reveals no deficiencies with the equipment. Most of the time, these incidents are caused by human error. Good, old-fashioned negligence, as we like to call it. In cases that come down to unvarnished human error, little can be done to pull a rabbit out of a hat in court: Negligence is negligence. And negligence does not require the violation of a protocol or written policy to be actionable in court. (When was the last time you read an EMS protocol that said “don’t drop the patient?”) Negligence is the failure to Get help when you need it. Let’s face it. Ameriuphold the standard of care applicable to the circumstances (or, put another way, the failure to act ca’s obesity epidemic takes its toll on EMTs and medics as a reasonably, prudent EMT or paramedic would every day. Know your physical limitations when lifting under the circumstances). No violation of a written patients. If you need extra assistance, ask for it before protocol or policy is necessary for a jury to find that making the situation worse by attempting to move not dropping patients is firmly within the EMS stan- a patient who is too heavy for you and your partner. Asking for help is no admission of failure or defeat if it dard of care. Here are a few suggestions for preventing unneces- means a safer move for you and your patient. Work as a team. Ensure patients are moved in sary liability arising from the ill effects of gravity that a delicate dance of coordination by all members of result in patient drops: Train your people. Make sure your crews are your team. One team leader should provide a clear lift properly trained not only in proper lifting and mov- count, so that all personnel are exerting at the same ing techniques (which can also help reduce workplace time. If other crew members are needed to back up injuries), but also in the proper use of your agency’s the carriers on stairs, on icy or snow-covered drivespecific equipment. Newer technologies, such as pow- ways or to help navigate other hazards when moving ered cots, assisted lift devices and locking systems, can the patient, ensure those conditions are addressed require a greater comfort level to operate than tradi- before or during the move to minimize risks. Move all obstacles ahead of time if they can be moved and may tional equipment. Maintain your equipment. Follow the manu- impede your path of movement. In this regard, a little facturer’s suggested policies regarding periodic inspec- preplanning goes a long way. Though some of this advice tion, maintenance and replacement Pro Bono is written by may seem elementary, focusof equipment and devices used to attorneys Doug Wolfberg ing on improving patient handling lift or move patients, such as stretchand Steve Wirth of Page, practices can help prevent injuries ers, stair chairs and backboards. This Wolfberg Wirth LLC, a to crew and patients, and it can stuff doesn’t last forever, so don’t try national EMS-industry law reduce the chances of legal liabilto squeeze more life out of a piece of firm. Visit the firm’s website at for ity arising from these preventable equipment that has reached the end more EMS law information. types of human errors. of its life span just to save a few bucks. Conduct a keyword search for “drug shortage” at for more information. 24 JEMS JULY 2012
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  24. 24. LEADERSHIP SECTOR presented by the iafc ems section by gary ludwig, ms, emt-p Discipline P icture this scenario: Two of your paramedics respond to a scene. Your patient’s wife called for you to treat her husband, who’s threatening suicide. He has been drinking and admits he took some of his pain prescription drugs. Once the paramedics get to the scene, the husband is agitated and uncooperative. He’s adamant that he doesn’t want to be transported to a hospital. The paramedics try to gain his cooperation and try to get some history and vital signs, but he tells them, “You ain’t touching me” and “I ain’t going to no hospital.” This is a difficult scenario for the paramedics because they have a patient who isn’t cooperating. According to the medical director’s protocols, however, anyone who’s threatening suicide or can’t pass a series of questions to verify they’re competent to deny treatment and transport must be transported to a hospital facility. Finding themselves in a quandary, the paramedics decide to call the police. Once the police arrive on the scene and find that the patient is refusing treatment and transport to a hospital, they tell the paramedics there’s nothing they can do because the patient is refusing treatment and transport. The paramedics decide not to transport the patient to the hospital. The two paramedics on the scene are good employees. They always come to work, are never tardy and generally cause no problems. Several letters from citizens in their personnel file reflect excellent customer service skills over the years. The employees’ files lack disciplinary action. For the most part, these paramedics are excellent employees. On this particular day, they made a bad decision. The EMS providers decided not to transport the patient who was denying any treatment and transport, and the police officers said they weren’t going to intervene. The providers had the patient sign their standard refusal of care form, and they exited the scene with the patient’s wife protesting. 26 JEMS july 2012 After the Call Several hours later, the 9-1-1 center receives another call from the patient’s wife. This time her husband is unconscious with labored breathing. When another ambulance arrives, they have to intubate the patient and transport him to the hospital. EMS management later discovers what happened, conducts an investigation and suspends each paramedic on the original call for 10 days. Is it the right decision to suspend both employees? Some would argue that the paramedics in this case should be suspended, and others would argue that they should receive further education to understand the protocols and refine their decision-making skills. Many would argue that discipline isn’t about punishment for doing something wrong; instead, it’s to change the behavior of the employee’s who made the wrong decision. Others would argue that the paramedics in this situation shouldn’t be suspended because they’re good employees who weren’t unwilling to do the job, rather they weren’t fully aware of all the options available to them in the decision-making process. They possibly could have called their supervisor and asked what they should do. Or they could have asked the police officers to call one of their supervisors and have them respond to the scene to assist with options to manage the patient who should go to the hospital but was refusing to go. Some would argue that when you suspend two employees who made a wrong decision, you will take two good paramedics who are generally excellent employees and destroy their motivation for the job. Some would argue that the suspensions would dampen the employee’s enthusiasm to come to work, never be tardy, and treat patients and family members with excellent customer service skills because the employee didn’t act intentionally or believe they were making a poor decision. The final step should be to administer the discipline. This final step should come only after the EMS providers have been taught, coached and counseled and the desired results aren’t achieved. Remember, the purpose of discipline is to change behavior, not to punish the employee. The disciplinary phase should also include an assessment of the desired behavior you’re trying to achieve. The severity of the disciplin- Punishing your ary action should employees be based on the unnecessarily may potential conse- lead them to quit. quences the behavior could cause to the department. During my years, I’ve seen managers in fire and EMS organizations hand out discipline like they were handing out candy. I even worked for one manager who finished every department-wide memorandum with the statement, “Failure to follow this memorandum will result in discipline.” Of course, those memos went over like a lead balloon, and he couldn’t figure out why there was such dissension in the organization or why he couldn’t hold a job anywhere. Bottom line: Discipline isn’t always the answer. JEMS Gary Ludwig, MS, EMT-P, is a deputy fire chief with the Memphis (Tenn.) Fire Department. He has 34 years of fire and rescue experience. He’s chair of the EMS Section for the International Association of Fire Chiefs and can be reached at Photo The difference between discipline punishment
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  26. 26. TRICKSour patients ourselves OF THE TRADE caring for by Thom Dick, EMT-P Old Friends Harnessing people’s wheelchairs Y Photos Thom Dick hundred pounds. But fortuou ever think about nately, people who depend wheelchairs, Lifeon those devices also tend to Saver? We see them have one or more standard so often I reckon most of us wheelchairs, and they can get rarely give ’em much thought, by with them for a short time. but so many of the people My first EMS employer you meet every day are totally was affiliated with a medidependent on them. cal equipment supplier, and Some chairs are pretty I learned my lessons early sophisticated and weigh more about wheelchairs from than you can lift. And some them. You can expect a basic of their owners have had folding wheelchair to have names as big as Itzhak Perla mass of 20 kg. Its weight man, Christopher Reeve, and increases depending on its Stephen Hawking. Franklin D. optional attachments and the Roosevelt was often popularsize of the patient it’s designed ized with a wheelchair during to accommodate. WWII, and actor Raymond Types of attachments Burr’s award-winning Ironmight include adjustable side character never appeared footrests, removable handwithout one. rails, reclining backrests, But famous or not, the head supports and oxygen U.S. Fire Administration has racks; and each of those estimated as recently as 1999 adds weight. Many attachthat 1.8 million Americans ments can be removed prior depend on wheelchairs.1 The to loading a wheelchair, and World Health Organization they should be. You can stow currently estimates that 1% them under the bench seat. of the world’s population— Of course, if you’re in a Type some 65 million—are in need I or Type III ambulance, the of wheelchairs.2 And to many outboard compartments of the people we transport in might be better. ambulances, their wheelchairs Before you handle any are absolutely essential. wheelchair, consider that So how do you load a wheelchairs can be dirty. wheelchair? Where do you They’re subject to spills and stow one safely in an ambubathroom accidents, and lance, and what do you do if many of them aren’t cleaned you simply can’t take one with often. I think it’s a you? You don’t exactly know good idea to glove those things when you start Knowing how to handle a wheelchair is an important up before you handle out as a new EMT, do you? aspect of patient care. one, and clean your To be sure, you simply can’t transport some kinds of chairs in an ambu- hands afterward. Also, make it a habit lance. A powered wheelchair or scooter is to lock the brakes every chance you non-collapsible, and its motor, batteries and get. That’s a must before you help heavy wheels can raise its weight to several someone into a wheelchair or out of one. It’s 28 JEMS JULY 2012 also necessary to lock the brakes before you lift a wheelchair because you’ll need to grip one of its main wheels to do so. Collapsing and expanding a wheelchair is easy if you know what you’re doing, but you can look pretty silly otherwise. To collapse one, grip the front and rear edges of its seat and lift abruptly (thus the gloves). To expand it, push downward with both hands simultaneously on the rigid supports attached to the right and left edges of the seat. Any time you stow a chair, make sure it’s folded and firmly secured with a buckle strap (such as the safety harness on your captain’s chair, for instance). Even a lightweight wheelchair can turn deadly and bounce around the inside of your compartment. Finally, if you’re transporting a chair from a patient’s home, there’s a good chance it’s not clearly identified as their property. Do them a huge favor. Attach a piece of two-inch cloth tape to the rear-facing surface of the seat back, and print their name on it with a felt marker. Apply the tape at an oblique angle, so you attract more attention. Even manual wheelchairs are expensive (up to $500 a pop), and they can get lost in hospitals. You wouldn’t want that to happen on your shift if you could so easily prevent it, would you? JEMS References 1. USFA. Oct. 1999. Fire Risks for the Mobility Impaired. In Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. Retrieved April 29, 2012, from publications/fa-204-508.pdf. 2. Disabilities and Rehabilitation: Guidelines on the provision of wheelchairs in less-resourced settings. In World Health Organization. Retrieved April 29, 2012, from Thom Dick has been involved in EMS for 42 years, 23 of them as a full-time EMT and paramedic in San Diego County. He’s currently the quality care coordinator for Platte Valley Ambulance, a hospital-based 9-1-1 system in Brighton, Colo. Contact him at
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  28. 28. CASE OF THE MONTH DILEMMAS IN DAY-TO-DAY CARE BY Fred W. Wurster, III, AAS, NREMT-P More than a Headache Patient’s symptoms found to be much more serious Patient Assessment The patient responds by whispering his name and saying he has a headache and that it hurts to open his eyes. You question the patient about his reasons for being treated at the facility, and he reports he’s an alcoholic who drinks approximately one gallon of vodka a day and has since he was 14. He has been “clean” for six days. The patient denies any other medical conditions, reporting that he doesn’t take any prescribed medications and has an allergy to Penicillin. According to the patient’s chart, he’s taken several medications to aid in his detoxification process. You and your partner look at each and try not to pass judgment because you’ve encountered many patients here in the past who haven’t been truthful with their complaints. While you continue to question the patient, he suddenly grabs the back of his head and states, “This is the worst headache I’ve ever had; it feels like someone is cutting into my brain.” You obtain a baseline set of vital signs that reveal the following: BP=168/118; HR=92 and regular; RR=18 and non-labored. Transport The patient begins to writhe in pain, complains about increasing pain in his head and vomits twice profusely. You secure the patient and stretcher and prepare for transport. You 30 JEMS JULY 2012 hospital. The patient remains apply the ECG monitor and unresponsive with unchanged administer 4 LPM of oxygen. vitals. The emergency departYou establish an IV and adminment (ED) staff takes him to ister 4 mg of Zofran for nausea. radiology for a computed As you begin transport, you tomography scan. ask the patient how he’s feeling, A few moments later, the but he doesn’t answer. You ask ED physician informs you that again and note that he now has the patient is in extremely critisonorous respirations. cal condition. He tells you the Current vital signs are now: Be wary when responding BP=198/168; HR=110; RR=8 to a call at a familiar facility patient has a substantial suband are shallow and abnormal because the patient could arachnoid hemorrhage and has in pattern. You begin to assist have an unknown underly- just gone into cardiac arrest. Resuscitation attempts are the patient with ventilations ing condition. with a bag-valve mask and your partner noti- unsuccessful, and the patient is pronounced fies the hospital of the sudden change to the dead about 30 minutes later. patient’s condition. While you ventilate the patient, he Subarachnoid Hemorrhage becomes extremely agitated and begins to A subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when thrash around. Although he’s not seizing, blood enters the subarachnoid space because he becomes difficult to control. This contin- of a variety of reasons. It usually occurs ues for a few minutes, and then he suddenly from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm or as a becomes somewhat alert and says, “some- result of a traumatic head injury. The classic thing is really wrong.” or textbook symptoms of one are a rapid A repeat set of vital signs still shows a dra- onset of a “thunder-clap” headache, which matically elevated blood pressure at 218/176, is often reported to be the worst headache with a HR=118, and now the patient’s respira- someone has ever experienced. Other associtions seem more normal at 14 per minute. ated symptoms include vomiting, confusion, You conduct a blood glucose test, and it’s 86 decreased levels of consciousness and somemg/dL. The patient’s skin doesn’t feel hot, and time seizure activity. all the other physical exam findings are within Subarachnoid hemorrhage has a 50% mornormal limits. tality rate, and of that 50%, about half the About five blocks away from the hospital, patients expire before reaching a hospital. the patient lets out a scream that startles you Patients who survive usually have some form and your partner. He clutches his head, and of lasting effects, and early recognition and then becomes unresponsive. You immedi- rapid transporting to an appropriate facility is ately start ventilating again, because his res- paramount to their survival. pirations are extremely shallow and irregular. Prehospital treatment should be supportive You notice he has extremely unequal pupils of symptoms (if allowable by your protocol) and that his pressure has increased substan- and should be initiated as soon as possible to tially to 276/224 with a HR of 126 and RR of 6. optimize the outcome for your patient. JEMS You continue to assist the patient’s ventilations and prepare for intubation. The patient Fred W. Wurster III, AAS, NREMT-P, is the director is successfully intubated with ease, as he has of training for the Good Fellowship Training Institute no gag reflex. He’s sedated with 5 mg of in West Chester, Pa. and a flight paramedic with Versed as part of your post-intubation seda- PennSTAR in Philadelphia, Pa. He’s also a JEMS techtion protocol, and then you arrive at the nical editor. Contact him at Photo Yuri Arcurs/ I t’s a Thursday afternoon, and you’re dispatched to a local substance abuse rehabilitation facility for a person complaining of a headache. While en route, you and your partner discuss how many times you’ve responded to this facility for calls that don’t seem legitimate. Additional information is obtained from the 9-1-1 center that reveals you’re responding to a 48-year-old male complaining of a headache and dizziness. You arrive and are escorted to the patient, who’s located at the nursing station. The patient is seated and holding his head with his hands. You introduce yourself and ask what’s wrong.
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  30. 30. EMS industry may shift deployment methods By Johnathan D. Washko, BS-EMSA, NREMT-P, AEMD F or many outsiders, running an ambulance service can often appear to be an easy thing. Although EMS appears to be simple, it isn’t. EMS’ first 30 years or so have been solely focused on proving to the medical community that it could perform tasks that, traditionally, only doctors could do. So few have stopped to ask the questions associated with how we should perform these tasks. How EMS Provides Care This is the same problem found in most of the healthcare industry today. The focus on providing the best medicine money can offer has generated exceptional clinical results for patients, but those results have tremendous costs with one of the most uncoordinated, stove-piped, expensive and 32 JEMS JULY 2012 inefficient healthcare delivery systems on the planet. The same often holds true for much of EMS. The medicine we in EMS provide on a daily basis is the foundation of our existence (and the clinical outcomes from these efforts are widely unknown and/or debated), but the methodologies we employ to deliver this medicine to our patients drives 70–80% of our costs, based on the delivery model used. We’re talking about the procedures, practices, schedules and deployment methodologies that are used by your EMS system to get your clinicians, medicine and equipment to the patient within some sort of “acceptable” time frame (i.e., response time). The debate to define “acceptable” response times is finally coming to a head, with evidence-based research and customer satisfaction and expectations driving this definition; however, many EMS leaders are also pushing EMS delivery methods to the forefront because of the economic downturn and healthcare reform. Prehospital medicine across the U.S. is, for the most part, standardized, but the system designs used to deliver these services are as diverse and variable as the species on our planet. System designs range from inefficient and ineffective, to highly efficient and effective with many variables, including wages and benefit costs, accountability, response-time reliability and measured clinical outcomes from these efforts, separating “the men from the boys.” Some of the most efficient and effective EMS delivery systems today often provide better clinical outcomes and service reliabilities as their most expensive counterparts, proving that throwing money at a problem isn’t always the answer. Anecdotally, when you look at cardiac arrest return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) rates across the country and then look at the system delivery models used to achieve these results, you either see static deployment models (station-based systems) or dynamic deployment models (i.e., highperformance EMS) as the common delivery mechanisms. (Hybrids containing methodologies from both genres also exist.) Both these service-delivery models can produce excellent cardiac arrest survival outcomes, but at what cost? Some have attempted to correlate survival rates with the number of active paramedics used in the system, but I find this absurd. (I know the e-mail inbox will be filled after this one with those who disagree with this statement.) Response Times Whether dispatch life support through prearrival instructions, first responder, BLS or ALS, the bottom line is the response times count ... period. Response times ensure high-quality CPR is initiated. These factors are what the clinical research indicates we need to do to improve neurologically unimpaired walk-out-of-hospital survival rates. The importance of ALS is definitely heading toward the stabilization side of the equation, post ROSC, and not where we thought it made a difference, in the initial conversion into ROSC. Many would debate whether ROSC is the
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  32. 32. Delivery Models continued from page 32 best way to measure an EMS system’s clinical effectiveness. I would strongly agree it needs to be greatly diversified; however, ROSC is all we currently have to examine for comparative purposes. Cost of Success Now let’s look at the costs to achieve these results. Statically deployed EMS systems are, by design, an expensive way to provide services, especially for urban and suburban population centers. Rural EMS systems are a different animal and aren’t included in this group. As EMS providers, we see these system designs as the means to earn money sleeping, but these designs are often ineffective clinical delivery models because of poor response-time reliability. However, one thing is reasonably certain. Static deployment systems are the most inefficient and costly way for us to deliver EMS service. Clinically effective static deployment models exist, but they’re even more expensive to operate than their ineffective counterparts because these systems throw away tons of money or manpower to solve response-time problems. Dynamic deployment systems on the other hand (those that match supply with demand—both temporally and geospatially), are frequently effective clinical delivery models because of superior response-time reliability, and they are the most cost-efficient means to achieve services, because they use the appropriate amount of resources to meet patient-care needs. These models are the most unpopular with EMS providers because productivity and efficiency are balanced with good clinical care, sacrificing down time. Sitting in the front of an ambulance and being placed on a street corner is not as comfortable as responding from a warm bed in a station’s bunk room, but it gets the medicine into a critically ill patient’s veins a lot quicker. So the proverbial EMS dichotomy—to station or not to station, is the question. The answer depends on the size of your region’s wallet, tolerance for change, politics and willingness to provide tax subsidies. Many urban and suburban dynamic deployment systems, with excellent clinical outcomes, have operated with little to no tax subsidies for decades. Few (if any) static deployment models exist in urban or suburban regions with excellent clinical outcomes that, accounting for all costs, operate without some sort of subsidy (and usually a big one). This can be an eye-opening observation for elected officials and the public alike. Resistance to Change So because we know how to do it better, faster and cheaper, why doesn’t everyone pursue this? The answers lie in human nature, political pandering, an unwillingness to abandon “tradition” and the economy. Where do we go from here? Although our industry will continue the eternal debate on EMS system design issues, a storm of unparalleled magnitude is brewing. This storm, also known as healthcare reform, will change our lives in EMS as we know it. Having an efficient and effective service delivery model is the foundation by which innovation, evidence-based clinical practice and the shift from treating a majority of our patients in the hospital to treating the majority of our patients in the prehospital realm will evolve. This change should be a metamorphosis by which EMS Choose 27 at JULY 2012 JEMS 35
  33. 33. Delivery Models continued from page 35 How is Your Oxygen Supply? will springboard itself from being a rounding error in the federal CMS budget to becoming a significant contributor and provider to the U.S. healthcare system. How to Change MOGS-100 Benefits of an Oxygen System: Become Completely Self-Sufficient Fill High Pressure Oxygen Cylinders Transportable to Disaster Site Transfill Directly to a Vehicle Generate OXYGEN On -site 24/7. CFP-15M MOBILE OXYGEN TRAILER Oxygen Generating Systems Intl. | Email: Tel: (716) 564-5165 or (800) 414-6474 | Fax: (716) 564-5173 Choose 25 at 36 JEMS JULY 2012 How and why will this happen? It comes down to pure economics. Once reimbursements shift from a fee-for-service model into bundled and/or capitated payment models (whether it be from an accountable care organization or other capitated reimbursement methodology) that reward continuum of care coordination and service integration vs. the current model, which financially rewards uncoordinated and inefficient care based on the volume of patients we see, we’ll see a shift emerge in how medicine is produced. More importantly, the service delivery models used by this medicine, will change for the better. EMS can play a significant role. My interpretation of this is that EMS will be at the forefront of this change because the prehospital realm is our oyster, and we know it well. When you break an EMS system into its component parts, you find four primary activities: public safety, public health, disaster preparedness, response and recovery, and healthcare. The proportions by which EMS performs these functions can be widely debated. The fact of the matter remains that for most EMS systems, reimbursement from healthcare-based insurance is the primary mechanism for funding and typically pays indirectly for non-healthcare related functions, such as public safety, public health and the various stages of disaster management. I envision a day not too far from now when someone will call 9-1-1 and the dispatcher (a clinician) will work through a clinicaldecision algorithm and help the patient determine the appropriate locus of care, which will become alternative methods of healthcare service delivery, including community based/expanded scope paramedics and self care, and not elicit the typical U.S. EMS response. In several innovative EMS systems, paramedics are already visiting patients in their homes (in some cases, in tandem with a nurse, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant) to perform diagnostic testing on site and come up with alternative treatment regimens that would include on-site treatment options, transportation to alternative (less expensive) modes of care (e.g., urgent care) or treatment and transportation to the emergency department for those patients who truly require it clinically. Cutting edge, high-performance EMS systems are already blazing a path. EMS system design innovators are at the forefront of the revolution and evolution of our industry. They’re some of the ones taking the risks, creating something from nothing—many without additional reimbursement—to help carve the path most of us will eventually follow once the storm has passed … if we survive it. Those systems with the ability to embrace change will survive in the new normal. For the ones that don’t, I suggest you build a storm shelter and stock it well. JEMS Jonathan D. Washko, BS-EMSA, NREMT-P, AEMD, is assistant vice president of operations for North Shore–LIJ Center for EMS located in NYC and Long Island, N.Y., and is president of Washko Associates, LLC, a leading EMS consultancy group dedicated to improving EMS agency performance around the globe. He’s also a member of the JEMS Editorial Board. He may be contacted at or
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  35. 35. Lessons learned from Navy jet crash response By Bruce Nedelka, NREMT-P A.J. Heightman, MPA, EMT-P V irginia Beach, Va., is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Virginia and ranked No. 41 in the 2011 JEMS survey of the top 200 cities in the U.S. Its 310 square miles and 38 miles of shoreline is home to approximately 450,000 residents and more than a million daily guests during the summer resort season. The city is also home to several large corporations, including STIHL Inc. and LifeNET Health, and it’s the heart of a large military population in America, with Little Creek, Fort Story, Dam Neck, Naval Station Norfolk and Oceana bases. 38 jems JULY 2012
  36. 36. Antonio P. Turretto Ramos/AP An aerial view shows the damage caused when a military jet crashed into the Mayfair Mews retirement community apartments in Virginia Beach, Va. Lessons Learned 1. Scene tape should be deployed, and policed, as early as possible into a major incident. This will establish and maintain a large, controlled scene perimeter and ensure security for personnel, patients and their assets. 2. The onslaught of media attention is often too much for the one agency’s public information officer (PIO) to handle, so a coordinated approach should be established early into an incident by all of the public safety PIOs and the city media communications manager (MCG). 3. Use of established social media communications is often effective and should be explored. 4. Multiple news releases; frequent, scheduled and Copyright (c) 2012, The Virginian-Pilot. Reprinted with permission announced media updates; and traffic message signs on the interstate roads should be used. JULY 2012 JEMS 39
  37. 37. Engulfed in an Instant continued from page 39 About VBEMS Virginia Beach Department of Emergency Medical Services (VBEMS) is a third-service volunteer-based department with more than 1,100 volunteer members staffing the city’s 10 volunteer rescue squads, plus 28 full-time paramedics and four full-time brigade chief field supervisors to augment the volunteers. The department responded to approximately 39,000 calls for service in 2011. In addition to emergency care and ambulance transportation, VBEMS also operates an allvolunteer Marine rescue team, heavy rescue service, two mass casualty incident (MCI) vehicles, an all-volunteer search and rescue unit, and bike teams. VBEMS also supplies the paramedics for the Virginia Beach special weapons and tactics team and air medical unit; manages post-disaster, medically friendly shelters; and provides lifeguard service for the city’s Sandbridge and Little Island Park beaches. The city doesn’t own any ambulances; all 35 of the VBEMS ambulances and support vehicles are purchased and operated by the 10 volunteer rescue squads. The rescue station buildings are in some cases solely owned by a volunteer rescue squad. In most cases, they’re a city-owned facility housing fire department and EMS resources together. The calm afternoon and the lives of those living in the retirement community of Mayfair Mews in Virginia Beach were forever changed just after noon on April 6. It was at that moment when a U.S. Navy F/A-18 jet with a student pilot and trainer on board experienced serious engine failure from nearby Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana and plunged to the ground, crashlanding into the buildings and courtyard of an apartment complex. Instantly, several buildings were engulfed in flames fed by jet fuel. The dark black plumes of thick smoke could be seen miles away. The pager tones that sounded for the incident were just like the ones that had dispatched thousands of calls before. However, this alert announced a call that would test the Virginia Beach EMS, fire and police departments, dispatch center and the city’s Choose 30 at 40 JEMS JULY 2012 entire Emergency Response System like they’d never been tested before. The Emergency Communications and Citizens Services Department 9-1-1 Center initially received a frantic cell phone call telling them about the crash and the fire. Almost instantly, the inbound queue was flooded with 80 calls. Scan here to listen to actual 9-1-1 radio transmissions from the incident. This number quickly escalated to 200. At the time of the initial call, 13 staffed ambulances, five staffed paramedic rapid response zone cars, one EMS duty supervisor (EMS-5) and two assistants (EMS-6 and 7) were on duty. However, within an hour, more than 170 volunteers were involved and 30 ambulances were staffed. During the first 90 minutes of the crash, more than 20 other 9-1-1 calls for ambu-
  38. 38. Choose 31 at Fleet Video Recorder Selected By One of the Largest Ambulance Service Providers Digital Ally’s fleet video systems are used by thousands of companies and governmental entities in all 50 states and around the world, including one of the largest ambulance service providers in the United States. Digital Ally’s Video Event Data Recorders (VEDRs) provide liability protection and savings through proof in vehicular accidents and against fraudulent claims; inspiring safe and professional behavior; incident review for training purposes; monitoring blind spots or separate vehicle compartments; etc. They do not require an ongoing contract or additional equipment and come with software at no cost. Digital Ally’s VEDRs are integrated into a rear-view mirror so that they do not interfere with the driver’s line of site or take up valuable space. Their design allows for easy installation into any type of vehicle, including those that did not previously include a rear-view mirror. Specialized one-way mirror glass allows an optional monitor to remain invisible while not in use. The systems record video, optional audio and detailed information. Recordings may be started manually or set to automatically start by reaching specific speeds or areas and numerous other customizable options, including violent maneuvers, shifting the vehicle into reverse, emergency lights, door sensors, etc. A predetermined amount of time prior to the moment a recording is triggered is also captured, which is referred to as “pre-event recording.” For more information, contact Digital Ally at 800-440-4947, or visit Choose 32 at
  39. 39. Engulfed in an Instant continued from page 40 lances were dispatched. These included a motor vehicle crash with entrapment, and several serious medical cases. Although the turnout of EMS volunteers was so great that none of the cases for ambulances in Virginia Beach required mutual aid, surrounding cities sent fire apparatus to backfill fire stations. Because of the heavy volume of calls received by 9-1-1, EMS Chief Bruce Edwards assigned an EMS division chief to the 9-1-1 center to assist in triaging calls and refining automatic response matrices and managing the EMS field resources. This was a helpful function because of the increased 9-1-1 call volume and communications. Some callers gave conflicting information regarding the location and what was unfolding. Some were more precise. All, however, were desperate for help. Cathy Fowler, a 24-year veteran Virginia Beach dispatcher, was on the EMS console that day. “When it became clear that we had a major incident, we all got so focused on our jobs that the 9-1-1 center had an amaz- ing calmness. There was no idle talk; we all did what we have been trained to do,” Fowler says. The first inbound call entered the system at 12:06:07 p.m. The initial simulcast dispatch was announced to EMS and fire units at 12:07:28 p.m. Although the dispatcher’s voice was calm, the message was clear: There was a confirmed plane crash. The initial assignment included the duty district chief, Battalion 1; Engines 11, 8 and 3; Navy engine 31; Ladder 11; Ladder 8; Safety 1; and Fire Squad 3. The EMS units dispatched were EMS-5 (duty field chief); EMS-3 (duty division chief); ambulances 1420, 1425 and 827; MCI-2; and rapid response medic zones 14 and 08. Virginia Beach public safety radio communications is all digital with multiple frequencies and banks. EMS and fire are separate departments, and each has its own primary dispatch channel and dispatchers. Calls are often “simulcasted” over both EMS and fire channels, by either dispatcher, to announce co-response calls. Doing so Choose 33 at 42 JEMS JULY 2012 serves several purposes, such as giving the same dispatch information about the location and the same incident nature to all units. Units then acknowledge the dispatcher via radio or on mobile data terminal (MDT) and respond to the call. Radio traffic and communications on the primary and tactical channels in the early minutes could have become uncontrollably chaotic with such a large response. However, primary channel radio traffic was controlled. This can be attributed to several key factors: First, the dispatcher’s voice was not frenzied. Had he sounded excited, field providers could have picked up on that emotion, and each individual’s adrenaline rush could have escalated; Second, fire department and EMS personnel had been involved in numerous training exercises and drills to prepare them to handle this type of situation. During the years, more cooperative, multijurisdictional drills between VBEMS, Virginia Beach Fire Department (VBFD),
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  41. 41. Engulfed in an Instant continued from page 42 military fire and EMS, Norfolk International Airport, and local hospitals, plus many large outdoor events in the city’s resort areas, proved to be invaluable rehearsals for this incident. It made the development of on-scene unified incident command much smoother and familiar. Although the first 9-1-1 call was still being received, Virginia Beach police officers near the crash site advised dispatcher Tonya King that they heard the thunderous crash and could see the smoke. King says, “My first thought was that what I was being told on the radio couldn’t be real. But when I looked at my computer screen and saw 9-1-1 calls flooding in, I knew this was truly the real thing.” Response Activates Within the first hour, the staff of 13 dispatchers increased to 34 as their preplanned emergency response team was activated, calling in off-duty dispatchers and supervisors. The additional personnel enabled multiple command and tactical channels to be staffed and allowed several personnel to make the required return calls to hundreds of 9-1-1 hang-ups. Close behind that officer were two other EMS members, one of which was an off-duty EMS volunteer Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) medic and the other was Jay Leach, an EMS Volunteer Brigade Chief who was an on-duty paramedic (Zone-14) at the time and was part of the initial dispatch assignment. Both were near Laskin Road and Birdneck Road when the crash occurred. Citizens joined forces with emergency responders to work feverishly to get residents out of the buildings, remove the injured and find the pilots. Initial reports indicated that only one pilot and parachute were seen. However, dozens of additional calls came in with unconfirmed and conflicting reports of a second pilot being involved. This led to several minutes of intense searching and confusion: Was there one pilot or were there two? Police officers and citizens quickly located one pilot and called for an EMS Choose 35 at 44 JEMS JULY 2012 team to treat his injuries. Although a few units and personnel were already staging near 24th Street and Birdneck, access to the pilot was south of Fleming Drive. An incoming ambulance was flagged down by police as they were driving north on Birdneck from the area of Interstate. That ambulance loaded the pilot, advised EMS-5 and continued on to the hospital. Confirmation was then received from citizens and Oceana Air Traffic Control that a second pilot had been on board. A radio message from Brigade Chief John Fusco, the Duty Shift Commander, advised inbound units to be vigilant in their search for signs of a parachute or pilot as they approached the scene. Crews knew the pilots had been ejected and thought they had a good chance of finding the missing pilot if they located a parachute. An Unexpected Find Pat Kavanaugh, a resident of Mayfair Mews and a retired Virginia Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad member, opened his sliding
  42. 42. photo courtesy jon kight photo courtesy Bobby Hill/VBEMS Foundation Crews transport the second pilot after he landed in the front porch of a man’s home. door after the crash to investigate. To his shock and amazement, he found the missing F/A-18 pilot lying on the patio with a parachute hanging on the side of the building. After Kavanaugh reached the pilot’s side, he heard the pilot utter, “I’m sorry I destroyed your home.” Kavanaugh’s EMS training and experi- ence instinctively kicked in. He conducted a quick patient survey and found no lifethreatening injuries. He then elicited the help of several neighbors and police officers to drag the pilot away from the burning building. An EMS crew was then directed to the location, and the pilot was moved quickly to an awaiting ambulance to be Choose 36 at transported to Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital. As can be expected with so many calls flooding the 9-1-1 center and nearly 100 citizens and first responders on the scene, some erroneous information came in during the first hour or more. One of the more tense time periods for incident commanders and responding crews came when reports continued that the second pilot was missing. The Search It was then known that the two pilots had been ejected as the plane fell to the ground. The fighter jet’s canopy was found behind an undamaged building near the entranceway into the complex. EMS-5 radioed again to incoming units that the second pilot was still missing and that they should include trees, ditches and rooftops in their search. Bystander reports
  43. 43. Engulfed in an Instant continued from page 45 of a pilot being in the burning rubble were proven wrong when the radio cracked that the second pilot was found conscious and alert. The fire units took up positions according to a fire pre-plan and recommended an immediate second alarm. That was closely followed by a third and then a fourth alarm. Available fire resources were quickly depleted citywide, so mutual aid from three neighboring cities were requested. Special- ized crash rescue units from NAS Oceana were dispatched along with one of their engines and ambulances. Location Details The Mayfair Mews apartments are located just north of Interstate I-264 at Birdneck Road and Fleming Drive. Northbound traffic on Birdneck Road quickly became jammed. As northbound traffic congestion grew increasingly worse, access by respond- ing emergency vehicles was also slowed. So when EMS-5 arrived, Fusco made a series of quick decisions, including a request for the dispatcher to assign a medical tactical channel and announce that any incoming units must approach from the north—Laskin Road—not from I-264 or south Birdneck Road (see map, p. 39). Laskin Road quickly became a controlled intersection by police and a good access point for emergency vehicles and first responders in private vehicles. Priority Cell Phone VoIP Access Verizon Wireless is the wireless provider for the city of Virginia Beach. It’s also a major Virginia wireless provider. With the crush of citizen cell phone use (for voice and data), the wireless towers quickly became overloaded, and many calls were not able to go through. This hindered operations for police, fire, EMS and other agencies at the scene and created a level of frustration among providers that needs to be addressed for future incidents. At a post-incident discussion with a representa- Choose 37 at 46 JEMS JULY 2012 tive of Verizon Wireless of Southeastern Virginia, VBEMS learned about Verizon’s emergency wireless public access (WPA) system, which allows authorized emergency responders to have priority access to cell phone sites. That priority service is part of post-9/11 legislation to improve first responder communications during emergencies. It relies on local jurisdictions to determine the users and policies. Although WPA may sound like a solution, it also has its limitations. Regardless of the carrier, only a specific capacity can be used, and when that capacity reaches its maximum, no other access is possible. A better alternative is to use pushto-talk or other technologies, such as texting or tweeting on a pre-established emergency Twitter account. Each uses voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) and sends digital “packets” in a way that allows far more users to access it at once. It was also learned through a post-incident review that although the user of a cell phone Choose 38 at
  44. 44. photo courtesy Bobby Hill/VBEMS Foundation Ten ambulances were staged on Birdneck Road facing north for clear egress if transportation to a hospital was needed. may feel as though their call didn’t go through, it’s possible that the individual’s call was in a “queue” and would have eventually connected when a wireless cell became available. Despite this knowledge, first responders will not hold on indefinitely without any indication as to when the call will ultimately connect. The lesson learned from this is that VoIP alternatives need to be established and practiced before a major incident occurs. With that problem resolved, emergency units could then travel northbound in the southbound lanes from I-264 to access the scene. Use of Tactical Channels The Virginia Beach EMS and fire computeraided dispatch (CAD) system has eight shared tactical channels. The initial tactical channel assigned to EMS operations was changed twice as the fire department expanded its Choose 39 at operations. That led to some radio communications confusion in the first hour or so of the incident. In the after-action meeting, senior EMS command staff decided to consider altering the EMS medical command tactical channel allocation on any future incidents of this magnitude and consider assigning the lesser used, but universally accessible, EMSadmin channel as its initial working tactical channel. This pre-planned EMS tactical channel would provide a clear channel for JULY 2012 JEMS 47
  45. 45. Engulfed in an Instant photos courtesy Bobby Hill/VBEMS Foundation continued from page 47 EMS crews readied their equipment for triage at a staging area, and a special MCI unit (far right) was waiting in preparation for news of any wounded patients. EMS operations and is highly unlikely to be overtaken by expanding fire operations. EMS day-shift captain Earnie Delp (radio designation EMS-6) arrived on scene and became the incident’s medical branch director. He established a staging area for arriving ambulances, personnel, EMS crash trucks and the EMS MCI unit early, a lesson learned in training and from past incidents. Almost all units followed the directive to arrive at the scene by traveling south from Laskin Road. The few that did not, or could not, were delayed in traffic congestion. During the quickly unfolding incident, multiple proper vehicle staging and positioning was critical, and leaving adequate space Choose 40 at 48 JEMS JULY 2012 for ingress and egress of units was essential. Within a few minutes of arrival, Delp communicated by cell phone with the charge nurse at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital, the primary destination for the first patients. He provided a preliminary size up of the incident and a warning about potential mass casualties. This early alert provided ample opportunity for hospital administration to activate the hospital’s external disaster plan, mobilize its personnel, call in off-duty staff and prepare for the worst. At this point, more units were beginning to arrive in rapid succession. When EMS Division Chief Ed Brazle (EMS-22) arrived, his collateral responsibility as the department’s emergency management coordinator helped define the forward triage area. Brazle directed the on-scene crews to bring stretchers and other specified equipment to the corner of Fleming and Birdneck and be ready to receive patients. This was a good location for staging equipment and personnel because it allowed for rapid ingress and egress by crews in the event that a patient required a stretcher. In addition, there was a UPS store with a parking lot at that corner. The parking lot ultimately served as the location for command post tent for unified command. EMS officers participated in the unified command in key leadership positions, including area command, medical branch director and liaison officer. Triage, treatment and transportation sector officers were also appointed early, and EMS area command director EMS-5 was advised. The system was gearing up for what was logically expected to be
  46. 46. heavy casualties. Deputy EMS Chief William Kiley and Operations Medical Director Stewart Martin were now on scene. After completing an initial scene walkaround, Brigade Chief Joseph Corley established a rehab location at the southeast corner of Fleming and Birdneck. He assigned a rehab officer and assisted in deploying equipment and personnel. Within about 10 minutes of establishing that rehab location, the first wave of firefighters began to arrive after mounting the initial, aggressive fire attack and evacuations. The EMS team attended to them and documented each encounter as they awaited recall into the scene. This reinforces the need for rehab to be established and announced to all personnel as early as possible. The initial incident commander followed the fire department’s pre-plan for the apartment complex and located the command post where the first-in district chief and battalion chiefs parked near the fire buildings with easy access through the parking lot from Birdneck Road. However, one of the initial 5 feeder hoses laid by the first-in apparatus, which caused problems for emergency vehicles and equipment by blocking access to several areas. After realizing this, fire crews enlisted the assistance of several citizens to help move the heavy hose and resolve the problem. Some 45 minutes into the call, it was believed that few, if any, civilian injuries would be coming to the waiting triage teams. Thoughts then began to shift to establishing a temporary morgue because of the multiple buildings heavily engulfed in flames. tion operations was selected on a side street in front of the initial on-site morgue location. The plan called for the deceased to be brought to the decontamination area to be thoroughly decontaminated. They were then to be placed into a body bag with a second body bag over the first one to ensure any contaminants from the first bag were encased in the second. It was initially believed that there would be a significant number of deceased as the building searches continued. Therefore, it was felt that the local medical examiner’s office wouldn’t be suitable because of its limited capacity. During a subsequent discussion at the command post, the police commander decided that the anticipated volume of fatalities would be better staged at the Law Enforcement Training Academy (LETA) located less than a mile south on Birdneck Road. Commanders felt that facility would be more secure and private than the initial open location on the side street. LETA was readied as the collection point for any fatalities but wasn’t actually used for its Expecting the Worst The initial location selected for the morgue was on one of the side streets of the complex. This proved to be an inappropriate location because command wanted all bodies to be decontaminated before they were placed in body bags and delivered to the morgue. This is because of the significant presence of airborne carbon-fibers and fuel created by the burning plane and buildings. Therefore, fatalities couldn’t simply be bagged and transported. Therefore, an alternative location that was more suitable for the decontaminaChoose 41 at JULY 2012 JEMS 49
  47. 47. Engulfed in an Instant continued from page 49 converted purpose because no fatalities were discovered. Personnel Accountability One issue that arose at the scene was the proper accountability of personnel. Many volunteers and other first responders selfdispatched to the scene. Some didn’t have proper identification and some weren’t appropriately dressed. Identification became an issue because law enforcement officers who were under orders to allow only authorized personnel into the area began to refuse access for some. The decision was made to announce over radio systems and other communication means that enough personnel were available at the site and no additional personnel were needed. In addition, for the purpose of uniformity and security, law enforcement personnel were advised that any member claiming to be with EMS who failed to present proper identification was to be turned away. Although some were unhappy they weren’t allowed to become a part of “the big one,” restricting access to only those with proper identification was for the best. Personnel management issues stemmed from having so many members on scene and still arriving with no assignments, coupled with a lack of patients. To solve the personnel management issues, Virginia Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad Chief Roy White, Jr. was assigned to manage the EMS personnel. Within 15 minutes, White established a meeting place for all on-scene and arriving personnel, assigned an assistant and got EMS personnel accountability under control. Accountability and identification wasn’t limited to first responders. Support personnel, such as utility workers and civilian contractors called in by the Navy, also didn’t always have proper identification. This posed a challenge for the incident liaison officer, EMS Division Chief Tom Green, who was responsible for their accountability. At large-scale incidents such as this, personnel management and accountability needs to be established early in the incident to account for and manage responding on-duty and off-duty staff, as well as contracted or requested support personnel. Incoming first responders and activated support personnel need to be advised of the scene’s restricted access and that proper identification will be Choose 42 at 50 JEMS JULY 2012 required. The maximum number of EMS personnel needed at the scene must be determined early in the incident—with overflow personnel advised to report to a rescue station. This will better control on scene and back-up resources and ensure the availability of relief personnel should extended operations be needed. The Media Rush From the moment the incident was a confirmed plane crash and, more specifically, a Navy F/A-18 fighter jet crash, incident managers knew it was going to be a huge media event. Although it’s important to get the news out, it’s more important to get correct information out. Rumors and misinformation often run rampant during large incidents, and this case was no different. A media staging area was established early on in the parking lot at 24th Street and Birdneck Road. Initially, that designation actually meant little or nothing to the reporters who wanted video of the fire and interviews with patients, residents and first responders. Initially, no one was available or assigned to corral and monitor the media location. It took a while, but the scene became better defined, taped off and organized. Once enough law enforcement and military police were on scene, this area became well organized, and personnel from the media were redirected and briefed there. This also became the established site for several formal news conferences. Within two hours of the incident, the city’s Media and Communications Group, a component of the city manager’s office, established a modified joint information center at the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and began to disseminate the information to the public via social media and standard news releases. Inquiries from dozens of media outlets from several countries flooded the 311 information center and EOC in during the first eight hours at an out-of-control pace. The incident was big news, initially because of the military link, and it grew even bigger as it became more and more apparent that there were no fatalities and only a handful of minor injuries. The news media began to play up the “miracle” aspect of such a large event.
  48. 48. Conclusion The F/A-18 fighter jet crash into Mayfair Mews Apartments tested the Virginia Beach emergency resources in many ways. But the years of training and MCI drills among all public safety agencies and regional military, plus the use of a unified incident command system, proved invaluable. MCI drills typically concentrate on handling a wide array of injuries and numerous fatalities. They focus on using proper triage methods and triage tags. They establish working models for successful unified command, branches and divisions to effectively triage, treat and distribute patients among all area hospitals. It was difficult to believe that both pilots could eject from the jet seconds before it hit the ground and have only relatively minor injuries; by the time this fact was discovered, the first-due ladder trucks, engines and a district chief had arrived and confirmed multiple apartment buildings heavily engulfed in fire as a result of the plane crash. What MCI drills don’t usually focus on is the type of multi-building incident that requires massive logistics, resources and personnel deployment to be involved in extended search-and-rescue operations, evacuations and the establishment of multiple triage posts around an occupied apartment complex, only to have no fatalities and very few minor injuries. Much was learned by the incident managers and crews in Virginia Beach. The advanced training and use of unified command on a routine basis helped the agencies in their response, command and control operations and on-scene actions. All involved believe the lessons learned from this case will help the Virginia Beach emergency response system grow and improve so that it can operate in an even better manner at future incidents of this magnitude. JEMS Choose 43 at Bruce Nedelka, NREMT-P, is a division chief and department public information officer for VBEMS. He can be contacted at A.J. Heightman, MPA, EMT-P, is the editorin-chief of JEMS and a recognized mass casualty incident management educator. Contact him at Choose 44 at JULY 2012 JEMS 51
  49. 49. Photo Allina Health No NEED FOR SPEED Improving accuracy of nursing home response-level requests By Lori L. Boland, MPH, Steve G. Hagstrom, NREMT-P T he following scenario will likely sound familiar. You’re dispatched to respond lights and siren to a nursing home. On arrival, you find a resident who isn’t in need of emergent transport. A cluster of facility residents appear confused and anxious about the arrival of EMS, and the faces of nursing staff convey regret about the commotion caused by an unnecessary lights-and-siren arrival. You assess the patient, and your initial clinical instincts about the non-urgency of the situation are confirmed. You begin to silently question the dispatch priority for this particular call. Was running “hot” through mid-day traffic really warranted? Many times, the answer is no. It’s well established that aggressive lights-and-siren response by emergency vehicles puts providers, patients and the public at increased risk of harm from motor vehicle crashes, and data suggest these risks are often incurred with little or no real clinical benefit to the patient.1–5 Between 1990–2009, an estimated 85,000 motor vehicle crashes involving ambulances occurred in the U.S., with 590 of those involving fatalities.6 Those figures amount to an average of 11 ambulance accidents per day and one ambulance-related fatality every other week. Most EMS agencies make a genuine effort to reduce the risks by mandating education and training on the safe operation of emergency vehicles during response and transport. But the other part of effectively reducing risk is minimizing the frequency of unwarranted lights-and-siren response without compromising patient care. Photos Allina Health 52 EMS providers on routine or scheduled responses to skilled-nursing facilities can take more time obtaining patient medical history from staff. JEMS JULY 2012
  50. 50. Choose 49 at
  51. 51. no Need for Speed continued from page 52 Augmenting Priority Dispatch Systems Validated 9-1-1 medical priority dispatch systems in use across the country have been implemented to improve the appropriateness and efficiency of dispatched services—getting the right EMS resources to the right people within the right time frame. But these algorithms are mostly designed to evaluate EMS needs based on information provided by 9-1-1 callers with no medical training, many of whom will access the system only once in their lifetimes. Consequently, dispatchers are trained to err on the side of caution, assuming the situation is urgent when information provided by the caller is sufficiently vague or when the caller is no longer in the presence of the patient. According to 2010 data submitted to the National Emergency MediFigure 1: Ambulance Response Flowchart Select Ambulance Response Level Routine Response Scheduled Transport Call EMS Emergent Response Closest available unit; no lights sirens; most calls answered in less than 25 mins Ambulance assigned to pick up patient at scheduled times 9-1-1 651/222-0555 651/222-0555 Allina Health EMS You may change response level at any time Phone Guide When you call 651/222-0555 a dispatcher will answer: “Allina Health EMS. This is [their name].” Proceed slowly with: “Hi, this is [your name] at ” [Name of facility] [Address of facility] Room [number].” I am using the flow chart. I would like a(n) (emergency/routine/scheduled) ambulance response”. Then briefly describe medical reason for transport All information will be repeated for verification and call may end. cal Services Information System (NEMSIS), nearly one-third of EMS call volume is attributable to healthcare facilities, including hospitals, clinics and nursing homes.7 Callers from these entities represent a different set of EMS summoners given their higher propensity for accessing 9-1-1 repeatedly and some degree of medical training. But many EMS responders will attest that unnecessary lights-and-siren responses to healthcare facilities, such as the situation described above, still occur. EMS agencies should be committed to exploring strategies to further refine dispatch prioritization at the local level. A Skilled Facility Response Program Choose 46 at 54 JEMS JULY 2012 Allina Health EMS is the EMS provider of Allina Health, a not-for-profit system of healthcare services providing care throughout Minnesota. The ambulance service area covers 1,200 square miles in 100 communities in the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area and includes about one million residents.