Fire Department EMS: Are They Becoming Antithetical Terms?

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of the fire department EMS model. I’ve written about it a number of times:

Marriage Counseling Part I: The Dysfunctional Fire-EMS Relationship

Marriage Counseling Part II: The Dysfunctional Fire-EMS Relationship

Marriage Counseling Part III: Detente in the Fire-EMS Relationship

A few weeks back, I posted an EMS1 column about the recent position statement by NAEMSE, NEMSMA and IAFCCP supporting an associate degree requirement for paramedics. It was well thought-out, complete with an implementation plan and numerous citations to back up its position.

Moreover, one of the principal agencies backing this position – NEMSMA – is doing so against its apparent short-term best interests, presumably because they believe it is more important to the future of EMS as a profession.

Predictably, IAFF, IAFC, NVFC and NFPA have come up with a rebuttal position statement, opposing degree requirements for EMS. Here, let me show you my shocked face:

Also predictably, it is poorly written, only one page, and with nary a citation to back up its claims. They use the same tired old argument they’ve always used to defend their regressive attitude toward EMS; it’ll cost more money, we’ll be unable to staff trucks, we’ll have to shutter fire stations, people will die, fire, locusts, plague, dogs and cats living together… complete anarchy!

The reality is this: what they fear is losing an uneducated, entry-level firefighter. Because that’s how they view EMS, as entry-level firefighters, despite the fact that EMS calls are roughly 90% of their call volume. We are simply a means to an end to the fire department. They do not care about patient care, they care about staffing and justifying their continued existence in the face of declining fire volume. If they really viewed patient care as their core mission – as it should be, if it’s 90% of their calls – they’d change the lettering on every truck to read BIG CITY EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES (and we also occasionally put out fires), and restructure budgets and command structure accordingly.

But they’re not gonna do that, because they want you cheap and uneducated. They oppose degree requirements for paramedics, yet for some reason they’re all hip to the idea if it involves fire officers. They want educated fire officers, but the current model of EMS education is just fine, thankyouverymuch.

They want you uneducated and cheap, because despite the fact that you handle 90% of the workload at any fire department, you’re still just an entry-level position in their eyes. Remember that.