Keeping firefighters motivated for EMS

The officer in charge of the advanced life support (ALS) engine company does not have to be the one who keeps the crew engaged in emergency medical services (EMS), but he certainly can be. Most firefighters enter the profession with the understanding that they will be responding to EMS calls. What they may not know is that the opportunity to save a life will present itself on an EMS calls far more often than on a fire or rescue run.

Saving a life is the most gratifying experience a firefighter will have. The fires, training, drills, monotony, housework, and box alarms come with the territory, as does EMS. However, few of the activities in a firefighter’s shift allow the job satisfaction we all crave more than a successful EMS call.


A good officer will never allow his crew to take EMS for granted. Good officers (and firefighters) will embrace the opportunity that EMS creates and show, by example, how to get the most out of every call. Enthusiasm is contagious, and so is contempt. Having contempt for the part of the job that will bring more than its share of satisfaction is ridiculous.

When I was in charge of ALS Rescue Co. 1 in Providence, Rhode Island, the fire companies that we ran with responded to more than 3,000 calls a year, and some companies ran well over 4,000. Approximately 70 percent of those calls were EMS related. Scattered between the EMS calls were the usual mishmash of box alarms, fuel leaks, high-angle rope rescues, elevator emergencies, and building fires. The vast majority of crews treated EMS with the respect it deserved. The few that saw it as in interruption to their day missed out on what could have been some very memorable moments.

RELATED: Compton on Fire Department-Based EMS ‖Dean and Messoline on Fire-Based EMS: The Solution for an Ailing System? ‖ Johnson: Where’s the Medic?

Fire companies are usually first on scene in life-threatening emergencies. They are the ones who assess the severity of a situation, begin CPR and defibrillate when needed, get a cohesive story out of distraught people for relay to incoming units, and create a calm and professional atmosphere where chaos could reign. They are a vital component to every aspect of our response.


Thanks for reading!

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