TV shows like “Chicago Fire” aren’t merely employing a plot device depicting EMS and firefighters working together. Both rescue groups provide vital support to each other during crisis situations. Together, they form the core components of quick response actions when every minute counts.
May 4 is International Firefighters Day, so we wanted to take a moment to recognize how our profession works with theirs. We appreciate their hard work and dedication.

Critical Response Time

Although firefighters have emergency care training, they need to obviously focus elsewhere when responding to reports of a fire. With EMS also reporting to the scene as soon as a call comes in, each group can attend to where they’re best needed. As firefighters diffuse flames, EMTs are there to apply two time-sensitive dynamics which may profoundly affect a patient’s treatment. “Platinum 10” is the crucial initial assessment of what a patient needs, so called because it should be determined within a 10-minute span. Concurrently, there is also the “golden hour,” during which care received within the first 60 minutes can hopefully lessen sustainable damage and trauma.
A cohesive response unit reduces, if not eliminates, delays between the different aspects of handling an emergency, and prevent miscommunications between departments. Given the emotionally charged atmosphere of a crisis situation, it may be challenging to keep everyone calm. First responders train to work with patients on the autism spectrum, so they know how to help people with sensory sensitivities feel as calm as possible. Furthermore, EMTs are immediately available if firefighters or police become injured on site.

Non-Emergency Assistance

EMS and firefighters work together on non-emergency calls too. They may check on someone’s well-being, or make sure that home health aids are properly set up. If there is a wheelchair-bound or bed-confined patient who may require hospital transport, EMTs can take an ambulette or specially designed van for that call.

EMS and Firefighters Work Together in Community Outreach

Community outreach is another integral part of first responders’ jobs. Firefighters and EMS professionals commonly appear during school career week or at neighborhood festivals. Along with giving children the opportunity to explore an emergency vehicle, these civil servants explain the different positions available within their profession. EMT training and certification ranges from basic (defibrillators, IVs), to intermediate, to critical. (A paramedic can perform invasive treatments and lab work.) Some also specialize in tactical operations.  Firefighter ranks include single-purpose as a volunteer, engineer, lieutenant, and high commanding roles, and dual-position to incorporate paramedic or EMT training. Despite technical differences between the careers, both require the following qualities:

  • Effective communication skills
  • Compassion and empathy
  • Level-headedness and calmness
  • Physical strength
  • Mental and emotional strength to handle distressing, unsightly, or violent scenes
  • Quick thinking, for evaluating patients’ decision-making capacity
  • Commitment to a demanding, yet rewarding on-call job

Additionally, EMS and firefighters host programs throughout the year, generally addressing:

  • Fire safety and carbon monoxide awareness
  • Blood pressure screenings
  • Child safety seat installation (which may also include donations of car seats)
  • Water/swimming safety
  • Seasonal/weather tips: staying hydrated and preventing heat stroke during the summer, and preventing slippery falls and hypothermia during the winter
  • CPR and basic initial emergency wound care

The 30-second “sound-off” of sirens paying tribute to fallen responders is May 6. Honor the men and women who dedicate themselves to helping and saving others, on that date, International Firefighters Day, May 4, during EMS Week May 20-26, and every time you see their uniforms and vehicles.
PHOTO: Pixabay / CCo Public Domain