All my years as a paramedic were filled with terror, joy, and outright confusion on many days. We never really knew what we were going to run on, dispatch did the best they could to inform us. Knowing the dispatchers I knew they wanted to “Keep their guys” safe.
They had as hard a job as we did, imagine you answer a phone call over and over all day and every call is some anonymous person having for the most part the absolute worst day of their lives. Seriously, every time you say hello the caller is in hysterics, blathering on and on for help.
I couldn’t do it. But they do, they stay calm, they reassure, they coax, cajole and comfort. They know the instant they have a location they are gonna roll “Their guys” into harm’s way, and they don’t take it lightly.
So they work their butts off to gather as much information as possible in seconds under very stressful conditions. I use the term dispatcher as a catch all for 911 call takers and dispatchers; although those jobs are different in action they are very similar in intent. Help us.
They know we are flying blind with lights and sirens into the abyss. We need information. There is nothing more frustrating than being told by dispatch that you are responding to a medical call, that’s it.
We run to the truck climb aboard and roll into the unknown. Then we wait for information as we are getting closer and closer to our destination.
In the cab we chatter back and forth about what might be coming, we do have some clues ourselves. Many neighborhoods have a clear character to them. Some are older neighborhoods and you know many of the residents are elderly, so that gives you a clue; maybe it’s an older person with an emergency specific to their age.
That gives you a chance at having a plan of action if no further information is given. Maybe it’s a rough area with gangs and drugs. Under those conditions, add the cover of darkness and you might prepare mentally for violence of some kind.
If its downtown on a Friday night around the time the bars close you might have someone who drank too much, or a fistfight, or any kind of thing. So we did have a chance at getting mentally ready and you did need to have some plan in mind, or at least I did as a medic.
Most of the time the paramedic is the highest authority on scene if the call is of a medical nature. You are in charge of the scene. Now your officer will control the overall environment and keep their head up to all things.
As the medic I focus on the patient or patients and giving direction to the rest of the crew, so I needed as much information as possible to be ready. If there was a void of information then we had to bring every piece of equipment we had with us and that’s’ a lot of stuff.
Our pals in dispatch might get a tad bit more info and you might hear you have a person down, that’s it. Now you are just a few doors away from the address and no matter your level of information you have to go to work.
In my mind I would quickly go through every possible reason I could think of for a “person being down”. Depending on time of day, weather conditions, time of year, and so on I would try and fit in likely scenarios that could fit the know information
So time of day for example, early morning sunrise. This could be a body or person that has only been detected because of the addition of light. They could have been down all night in the darkness, a drunk, a murder victim, a hit and run accident.
These things could make it a crime scene, so be aware not to disturb evidence as you go in and get the police rolling if they aren’t already. Also make sure you lock all images in your head firmly, you might have to testify in court about this two years from now. Right a good report.
They could be someone that works at that time of day, going to work and in poor light tripped over a kid’s bike in their yard and now has a head injury or broken limb.
They could be an early morning runner that has had an injury related to their exercise, or didn’t eat prior to their run and now has had a diabetic incident due to low blood sugar.
You get the idea; I had to prepare my mind for the best course of action. Nothing worse than getting caught flatfooted with a predetermined action in your mind and have it be something completely different. You might be ready for a drunk because of prior events in this area of town and have a heart attack or shooting victim instead.
For me it was hard to redirect my mind if I had made a conclusion with insufficient information. Jamming the mental brakes on that hard left skid marks through my mind and it took me a few second to readjust.
If you lie this discussion and want me to continue to explain my thoughts I will so let me know.