The Importance of Scene Safety

(Prologue: A few weeks ago someone emailed me and asked that I write about the time my partner saved my life. Here you go Gwendolyn :)

Here, for your reading pleasure...

How to Get Yourself Killed by Being Too Eager
(A lesson in "What NOT to do" by Epijunky)

The Scene: A rainy April night in Toledo, Ohio on the wrong side of the tracks.

The Players:
Epi - One brand new Basic EMT.
Quixtar Partner - One very experienced Intermediate EMT.
Father Time - One very old and crusty dispatcher.

Epi: (Sitting in a chair in dispatch) I'm tired. I really need to sleep.

Quixtar Partner: (Bright eyed, even at two in the morning)

He doesn't have two little ones waiting for him at home in four hours, he gets to go home and SLEEP! I hate him.

QP: Go to sleep... I'll come get you if anything happens.

Epi: But there's a commercial for OxyClean on... And that stuff is great at getting those minor blood stains out.

QP: Go to bed Epi, that's an order from an Officer.

Epi: You realize I have problems with authority, right? Particularly when they're ordering me to sleep. (Rubbing her eyes) We've done sixteen runs today. How are you still vertical?

Father Time: (mumbles something under his breath about youth being wasted on the young)

QP: I eat these. (QP pulls out an Energy Bar and hands it to me.)

The label doesn't say Amway right on it, not that I can see immediately anyway, but I'm fairly certain based on prior conversations that it's a Quixtar product.

Epi: (reading the nutritional facts) QP... The main ingredients are sugar, caffeine and crystal meth. That explains why you're still so damn perky.

Father Time: (Chokes on his coffee. Once he clears his airway and hacks up some aspirated coffee, he laughs until his face is purple.)

Cue the loud crash directly outside the windows in the dispatch office.

QP: (Jumps out of his skin) Good Lawd... What the... (He struggles to look out the window and see what's going on)

To his credit the windows are higher up on the wall than typical windows. And QP is barely tall enough to ride the bumper cars at Cedar Point.

Two cars have collided on the corner directly in front of the station. The scene is lit by one street light. To the North is an abandoned warehouse. To the South is our station. To the East and West are aluminum recycling yards. We're not in the roughest neighborhood in the city, but we're definitely in one of the more colorful ones.

Father Time: I'm going to call TPD, Ya'll gonna go check them out?

QP: (Looking at me) I know. I know. Let's go see what we see.

Epi: (Trying my hardest to not be excited over something like a car accident) Okie, lets go.

I grab the First In bag that is sitting next to the door and proceed to walk (not run, not skip, not do the cabbage patch kid dance) towards the scene. I make it about fifteen steps, or about a quarter of the distance there before I'm yanked violently backwards.

QP: (In a loud whisper) Epi. STOP!

QP is pulling on the strap to the First In bag. He's not just stopping me, he's pulling me backwards. It takes me a second or two to process what is going on and regain my balance. When I turn to look back at the scene I see why I'm being dragged back to the station at a sprint.

Male Driver has pulled a gun and has it pointed directly at Female Driver.

I feel my heart kick into overdrive. I let loose with a few very appropriate four letter words and haul ass back to the station. I'm convinced I'm about to be shot in the back.

Let me repeat that. I was absolutely POSITIVE I was about to be shot.

I can't even begin to describe what goes through your head when you're convinced you're going to be killed any second. All I can say is that they involved my children, my husband, and just about every person I care about. Faces flashed before my eyes.

When we reached the door to the station it was locked. QP fumbled with his nametag for what seemed like an eternity before he could swipe us in. We crash through the doorway and land on the linolium floor just inside.

Father Time leaned over in his chair and eyed us suspiciously.

QP: (Panting) Gun!

FT: You two okay??? (FT is calling TPD back to let them know what's transpired)

Epi: We're okay.

QP: (Still catching his breath. He looks me directly in the eye.) When, exactly, did you finish school?

Epi: Three months ago.

I know where he's going with this. I prepare for the verbal beating I'm about to receive.

QP: Do you remember when they talked about Scene Safety? Do ya REMEMBER THAT?

I nod. That's all I'm going to allow myself to do.

QP: Did you size up the scene before you ran out there?

Epi: (Stammering) I thought...

QP: (Slams the palm of his hand on the glass door) You DID NOT think. You charged out there Johnny and Roy style and didn't wait for me. You put us both at risk. We could have been shot. DO YOU REALIZE WE COULD HAVE BEEN SHOT??? Jesus CHRIST Epi!!!!

I've never seen QP angry before. But then again, I've never almost gotten him killed. I'm thirty years old. And for the first time on the job I feel like a stupid foolish child. I swallow hard and fight the urge to cry. I'm sitting on the floor next to QP staring at my knees shaking like a leaf.

If I could be so stupid as to ignore one of the most basic of things they teach you in school, I have no business working as an EMT. I want to jump to my feet grab my bag and run for my car. Instead I continue to sit next to QP.

Epi: (Whispering) QP, I'm so sorry.

QP: I could shake you, girl. You scared the hell out of me. (He wraps an arm around my shoulder.)

Epi: I don't think I have ever been so terrified in my entire life. QP... I'm so sorry.

QP: I almost shit myself when I saw that gun. Epi, promise me something.

Epi: You name it, Partner.

QP: I don't want you to EVER forget what just happened.

Epi: I promise.


I had a dream last night about the car accident I wrote about a few months back. That in turn reminded me of when the above fiasco took place. The incidents are about three years apart, but I have to believe Someone up there is trying to tell me something.

I'm listening.


Doug said...

I think we've all forgotten scene size up at one point or another. (Although I expect there will be some commenter here who says they never have and proceed to chastise both of us...) Just after I got my EMT, I was driving south down I-77 when I saw headlights spinning around on the snow covered freeway about 1/4 mile ahead of me followed by the car going off in to the center median ditch, where it proceeded to roll on its side and then, by some strange act of physics, bounce back up on to all 4 tires. I pulled off to the site of the road, called 9-1-1 and proceeded to head in and check on the driver of the vehicle while on the phone with the local police dispatcher. As I walked up to the vehicle, I noticed the right rear tire was twisted at about a 60 degree angle to the ground. I walked IN FRONT of the vehicle to get over to the driver's side, just about then he started gunning the motor attempting to flee the scene. Had the rear axle not been busted, I would have looked like a game of Frogger! gone horribly wrong. WTF was I thinking? In hindsight, I wasn't. (Not to mention, I sound pretty silly on the 9-1-1 tape yelling, "Turn the f---ing car off!!! Turn the car off!!!" The driver appeared to be positive for ETOH and just wanted to get the heck out of dodge before anyone arrived to investigate. Almost a very unpleasant lesson for me.

Medic61 said...

You almost get yourself shot in the back, I almost get myself shocked to high heaven...we need to stop doing that, haha!

Even if that was a while ago, it still worried me :( Be safe, girl!

Evil Lunch Lady said...

Point taken! If I ever go into EMTism, I shall remember that! (I hope)

david331.WamBamThAmbulance said...

were any shots fired @ you? if not, why are you so sure you'd have been shot?

Epijunky said...

No shots were fired period.

I guess that just makes me paranoid.

Something about a guy waving a gun around and yelling... It scared me. I was new. *shrug*

david331.WamBamThAmbulance said...

Being overly cautious is better than not cautious enough. In our neck of the woods, if guns are involved, it's usually personal, and the shooters don't intend to involve anyone else. 'Usually' & 'dont intend' aren't safe enough for me, though!

I've done a lot of pondering scene safety lately. In our area, we're frequently told @ dispatch "your scene is NOT secure, stage in the area..." when there's no indication of violence on the scene -- somehow the address is 'flagged.' If EMS is called to a 'flagged' address, no matter the reason, the SO must make the scene first.

For example, we were told "your scene is not secure..." the other day for a guy having a seizure. Five minute drive from our station, but we had to wait about 12 for the Sheriff's deputies to arrive. We then proceeded to the call.

He was status epilepticus upon arrival & most of the way to the hospital. He had done no bodily harm to himself, but his oxygen saturation upon arrival was 82%.


NannyOgg said...

{{{ Epi }}}

This week has been crazy, just catching up now.

I am glad QP was around!


danny said...

I'm sure I could apply this post to just about anything in life.

Nice read, and I'm definitely glad he didn't shoot.