AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

Florida Revising Scene Safety for First Responders

By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

For emergency medical services, scene safety is one of the basic aspects of responding to 911 medical and trauma emergencies. After all, if emergency medical technicians and paramedics are not safe on a call, that could compromise the call’s resources. Even worse, unsafe working conditions could render first responders seriously injured or dead.

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With the opioid crisis, however, scene safety has been brought into the spotlight. More importantly, first responders don’t always understand how to determine if a scene is actually safe.

The Arguments around Arming EMTs and Paramedics

Scene safety is a major policy concern for emergency medical services and other public safety professionals across the country. EMTs and paramedics responding to a 911 emergency usually don’t completely understand the nature of what’s happening until they’re actually on scene.

For example, 911 emergencies can stem from people who are arguing violently or who have mental health disorders. These types of situations present the potential for physical harm to first responders.

There have been numerous discussions about the wisdom of giving firearms to EMTs and paramedics on scene. Some arguments say that EMS providers are not the police, and therefore, it isn’t a good policy decision to equip EMS providers with guns. Others note that including weapons on an ambulance creates a gray area that complicates scene safety concepts and policy requirements.

EMTs and paramedics may very well be in harm’s way when they are working at a scene. Law enforcement may not always be available, and scene safety may be compromised as a result.

Florida’s Law

A new Florida law, however, is going to reshape how public safety professionals handle scene safety. Florida recently created a law that allows tactical medics to carry a firearm while responding to a mass casualty incident.

However, it should be noted that the ability to carry a firearm would not apply to a first responder’s daily duties. The law is important because it only applies to specific circumstances and only for individuals with tactical training.

Shaping Scene Safety in the Future

The Florida law ultimately pulls together several arguments surrounding weapons and ambulances while taking safety and mass casualty incidents into account. This law will ultimately define and reshape scene safety in the future, as it will undoubtedly impact other policies in the rest of the United States.

Allison G. S. Knox teaches in the fire science and emergency management departments at American Military University and American Public University. Focusing on emergency management and emergency medical services policy, she often writes and advocates about these issues. Allison serves as the At-Large Director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and as Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees with Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences. She is also chair of Pi Gamma Mu’s Leadership Development Program. Prior to teaching, Allison worked for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in a Level One trauma center emergency department. She is an emergency medical technician and holds multiple graduate degrees.

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