In today's increasingly complex and ever more dangerous world, EMS units in U.S. communities both large and small are learning to cope with a broad spectrum of mass-casualty incidents and events never before encountered by their predecessors. Here are a few common-sense cost, training, political, legal, and operational suggestions that should help.
With the potential to kill thousands in a single attack, chemical warfare agents have been an ongoing threat to nations around the world since World War I. Although efforts have been made to reduce the production and stockpiling of these deadly chemicals, there remains a need not only to stockpile effective antidotes, but also to train and equip the medical community to combat such disasters.
All or almost all suicides are personal tragedies by definition, regardless of the circumstances involved. A rapidly growing number, though, are becoming public dangers as well, with first responders and hospital staff among the most likely to become secondary casualties. All of which translates into a new set of mandatory precautions that must be taken, new lessons to be learned and followed, and additional rules and regulations to be observed.
Major stress and constant pressure are all part of the job for emergency-services personnel and other responders. A less obvious but greater danger is caused by drug and alcohol addictions. Professional help is available, but not always wanted. What is most needed, and in the long term most effective, is an all-hands alert to recognize the addiction earlier, provide the help needed, and avoid being judgmental.
First question: Should "everyday citizens" - however that term is defined - be given access to potentially harmful medications, including antidotes to dangerous narcotics? Well, perhaps. Second question: What if the medication also saves lives? Now the answer is a much more emphatic "perhaps". The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is working hard to come up with a more definitive answer.
In almost all dangerous events and incidents, the highest priority of the first responders on the scene is to save lives. The parallel obligation of emergency managers and other senior officials, therefore, is to do as much as possible to save and protect the lives of the lifesavers themselves.
New technologies and greater budgetary, political, and workplace challenges, so what else is new? That is the question that participants in next year's Anaheim "Summit" will do their best to answer while also devising better and more imaginative ways to, as always, do more with less resources...and with fewer people.
In the Old West, the town barber often served as the town doctor as well. The parallel today is far from exact, but the current generation of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) is rapidly learning new and more advanced skills. By using such technologically advanced medical systems and devices, the capabilities and responsibilities of EMTs have expanded exponentially and are likely to continue on the same upward trajectory for the foreseeable future.
Two major weather events that occurred earlier this year will be long remembered not only by meteorologists and historians but by the general public as well. Tornadoes struck the city of Joplin without warning and destroyed everything in their paths. Hurricane Irene was even more destructive - but at least provided some advance warning. The legacies of both will be studied by emergency planners for many years to come.
From time to time, hospitals themselves can be dangerous to a patient's health. That is particularly true when a patient is being transferred or evacuated, and even more so when a large number of patients are being evacuated at the same time. This is precisely why RFIDs, JPATS, and GPS devices are becoming more widely used.