EMS and EMT Now Part Of Fire Service Vocabulary
The Editor’s Opinion Page
EMS and EMT are now standard acronyms that everyone in the fire service recognizes on sight. Paramedic also falls into this category. But this wasn’t always so.
Originally emergency medical service was provided by an “ambulance” which was a unit, established during the Napoleonic Wars, to follow an army in the field and take care of the wounded. Later, the word ambulance was used to designate a vehicle that responded to an emergency to render first aid to the injured, usually with a doctor in charge who responded from a hospital. Not all hospitals provided this service, however, and frequently fire and accident victims had their injuries compounded or died from lack of proper attention.
It was not until some hundred years after Napoleon that the fire service recognized this lack and decided to do something about it. In the 1920s, the Chicago Fire Department and a few other de partments started what has now come to he called an emergency medical service actually an ambulance service that provided transportation to a hospital or other medical center, plus some first aid, which by today’s standards was quite unsophisticated. But it was a start.
Now, of course, sophisticated words like telemetry, electrocardiogram, defibrillate and others are part of the fire service vocabulary—or should be. The introduction of these words opened up a whole new era and area in fire service training and equipment. It is no longer sufficient for a fire fighter to be skilled in fire suppression and prevention—both designed to save life. He must be skilled in sustaining life that has been jeopardized by injury from fire or other causes. And to sustain life he must have the necessary training and equipment.
Training as an EMT requires a certain dedication and a sacrifice of one’s time (81 hours for basic EMT). In the fire service, naturally, there has been no lack of trainees. What is lacking in many places in this country is a lack of equipment to match the trainees’ skills. There are still many fire departments that lack the basic piece of equipment—an ambulance. And many with ambulances do not carry radio telemetry communications systems nor the devices used for CPR.
Some blame for this lack of equipment on a lack of funds. Not so, say we. There is plenty of money available through the federal and state governments for EMS equipment. All it takes to get it is some initiative and work.