EMTs, paramedics compete for blood and glory
Downtown Brooklyn was the scene of numerous staged fires, explosions and gas leaks on Thursday as the New York City Fire Department hosted its 15th annual FDNY EMS Competition and health fair, which takes place as part of National EMS Week.
A crowd gathered at MetroTech to watch the action as teams of Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics rushed to rescue both realistic mannequins and flesh and blood mock victims splayed on the ground in front of a bandstand, the scene of the day’s disaster scenarios.
Teams were given points for checking for safety, communicating with team members, managing the situation and using proper medical techniques.
“How many patients do we have?” a member of Harlem’s Station 16 Advanced Life Support team called out.
“One, two, three, four,” he counted.
“Walk towards me. Walk towards this voice,” his teammate yelled to a person leaning against the bandstand, as smoke began to erupt from nearby equipment.
Responders assessed the victims and began treatment. One medic tested a patient’s pupils to see if they reacted to light. Another elevated a victim’s legs, using a folding chair as an improvised platform. A third team member attached a tourniquet to a patient’s leg, then felt for a pulse. Another medic attached a red “triage” tag to a mannequin crumpled under collapsed scaffolding. The tag identified him as a critical patient.
The pressure was upped when it was announced that the carbon monoxide level was rising.
“Medics, your CO meter is going off at 35,” the FDNY announcer said. Responders had to decide whether or not to move the injured victims to a safer location or treat them where they lay for a while longer.
“This is a competition that occurs every year during EMS week,” James Booth, chief of FDNY EMS, told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Ambulance crews from throughout the city, each representing their own specific station, compete against each other performing medical skills under a timed setting to bring home a trophy at the end of the day and bragging rights as the best medical providers in the city.”
Chief Booth said some of the scenarios involve hazardous materials issues, vehicle accidents and people suffering medical emergencies. “It all goes down to how quickly they recognize what’s going on, how quickly they manage the situation, and the outcome of the patient.”
Paramedic Namwu Kim of Harlem’s Station 16 said the scenario was convincing. “In terms of what could possibly happen on our jobs, this was an accurate depiction. It reinforced our core principals of teamwork and communication, which is something it’s always good to relearn.”
His teammate, Paramedic Andrew Reiner, told the Eagle, “On most calls, you get a sense of adrenalin rush, especially if you note the patients are critical or when you have multiple patients of this magnitude. It really does feel a little overwhelming — but you just deal to maintain it, and you just do what you gotta do.”
He added, “I think we did pretty well.”
Reiner’s teammate Paramedic Anthony Kendall said the event brings the medics together. “It teaches us good ways to communicate, get a sense of how everybody else works, and reminds us to keep the base things in [mind] – to communicate with your partner, ask, ‘Do you need a hand, is everything OK?’ It helps you promote that good work environment where you have communication, and this way you have the best outcomes for the patients.”
Captain Cuevas described the new “compression-only CPR technique,” which FDNY has been using in the city for roughly seven years. “You don’t have to be certified to save a life,” he said. “Anybody who has been saved generally had CPR done immediately, and that is just the compressions. Yesterday we had our Second Chance brunch in Staten Island, where CPR was performed immediately. And just from learning how to do good compressions, people lived.”
The event included free trainings in bystander CPR, tours of FDNY vehicles, including the #FDNY150 ambulance, the Medical Evacuation Transportation Unit and the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Engine Company 3 that was dedicated in remembrance of 9/11.