Week 3: Driving is One of the Most Dangerous Parts of the Job

Sofia R -


There were a few things I learned this week, that I most definitely have rider’s curse, how alcohol affects behavior, and how stressful driving a fire engine can be.

Let’s start from the beginning. Overall, I had four calls this week, with three of them being classified as low acuity. The only call that was not classified in this category was for a dislocated knee. The medic and medic student administered Zofran and Fentanyl to the patient who was taken to the ER. While we were waiting for the medic to refill the medication he used, a firefighter and I watched them relocate the knee, which was oddly simple. In many medical shows and movies in Hollywood, every little thing is dramatized, from an overdose to a broken arm. What I have learned so far in this project is that everything is fairly calm….so far. I have yet to be on a call where there is a code or extremely aggressive patient, but from my previous experience working in the ER, I have noticed that the organization of resources helps quite a bit in dealing with the stress and chaos that comes from dealing with these patients. My only question is, what happens when you get a difficult case that is not in a controlled environment?

This week, both of my rides were located downtown. We got two calls for intoxicated patients, and when the first one came in, dispatch stated that they were unconscious. When we arrived on scene, the man was sitting up on his bed slowly talking to the police. He was never unresponsive, but he had delays in his vocalization due to the intoxication. Some things that I have heard from firefighters is that they wish dispatch got a better idea of what was going on before calling out response forces. In this case, getting a better idea of how the patient was acting, could have lowered the number of resources used on a low acuity call, and allowed better supply for major calls that could have also been happening.

Lastly, I must address the title. Both of my rides this week had acting engineers, firefighters who had not yet tested out yet to be in charge of the engine and drive it but were allowed by the department to be in that role to practice. On one shift, the captain told the acting engineer that he would be doing some driving practice. As we made our way through twisting neighborhood roads, they start getting smaller and smaller. Eventually, they got so narrow it took ten minutes to get through about ten feet of space. On either side we had cars, trees, and mailboxes just inches away, and the captain had to get out of the engine to direct the driver. At the end of this practice, the captain just laughed and smiled, proud of his driver. He did not notice how the engineer was shaky and sweaty from stress, or how me and the firefighter in the back had turned off our microphones because we kept gasping and cringing. Overall, I would say that our acting engineer did a good job considering how narrow the road was. This is something somewhat unique to the southern part of our city. When you get up into certain areas that are nestled in the mountainsides, it becomes extremely narrow and twisted. I cannot imagine how crews respond to calls in those places, especially fires.


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    Chief Durre
    Great work Sophia! We are excited to see your progress!
    Dave Haskell
    This is awesome, Sophia! The crews love having you, especially with the rider's curse! Keep up the great work!
    Wow! Is there guides that firefighters follow if an intoxicated person is being violent....?
    Lena, yes there are in the YRMC EMS guidelines. First responders have two options, physical or chemical restraints, and they can determine which they use. They also try to determine whether this behavior is a symptom of a life threatening issue they are facing, but in the end they try to keep the scene as safe as possible to take the best care of patients!
    Yajaira G
    So proud! What are some of the different titles/roles at the station?
    Yajaira, for each crew, there are three positions. First is the captain. This is usually a firefighter who has a lot of experience working for the department. They hold command of the crew and is responsible for all the members, they have also worked all the lower ranked roles of the crew. Second is engineer. They are in charge of making sure the engine works, cleaning it, setting up water lines at fires, and driving the engine. Lastly, is the firefighter. On many of my rides the firefighters have been newer hires, and they learn from both the engineer and captain.
    Toby Chang
    Sounds like you're learning a decent amount on these ride-alongs! I know this profession can be extremely stressful; what are some ways people manage their nerves? I'm sure it comes with time, but what about for people new to the field?

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