Local EMS crews respond to violent situations only after police clear the scene

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Row after row of ambulances stood ready in Las Vegas, ready to respond after the recent shooting. And, while some EMS workers were already on the scene of the shooting, KSN asked Sedgwick County about the protocol for EMS workers here.

Do EMS workers go into a potentially violent situation to offer help?

“It’s not something that our agency is currently going to do,” said Christopher Johnson, Sedgwick County EMS Ops Manager. “The way that our community is currently structured, we wait for law enforcement to clear the scene. Law enforcement will clear the scene. Once they have eliminated the shooter or tell us it’s clear then we will move in and start moving people out.”

Johnson says this year the EMS training involved responding to an active shooter scenario. Johnson says he understands EMS workers are humans, and EMS workers also get into the job to help people. So, it’s in their nature to help. But, he adds, there is a policy in place for a reason.

“We try to tell our folks we need them safe so they can take care of others. So we’re asking them to stay safe,” says Johnson. “We know in the heart of the moment that may change if they see something right in front of them. But our training is, you need to be safe so you can get in and help more.”

Johnson says EMS crew protocol is to check in with police or sheriff’s commanders if there is an active scene that could involve violence.

He also says the Las Vegas shooting, where some EMS workers could be seen putting on Kevlar to get to the injured, is rare.

“Again, not our protocol to go into a situation like that,” says Johnson. “I always say the end of a successful scene like this is that we’ve taken care of everyone and got them to a hospital. and our people are safe at the end of it.”

Johnson says Wichita police and Sedgwick County Sheriff incident commanders are very quick to prioritize and get EMS crews into a situation as soon as possible.

“What we are going for is a little bit of controlled chaos,” says Johnson of any violent situation where EMS is called out to offer help. “We know often that, although we train, and we have plans, those plans rarely sustain first contact.”

As plans change, they rely on officers to do their jobs. And they rely on EMS crews to follow protocol. Johnson says EMS crews regularly do amazing things.

But it’s the planning that keeps EMS crews safe, so they are able to do as much as they can.

“We can kind of work on the fly with the plan that we have but we understand it’s going to change,” says Johnson. “We try to be the calm in chaos. We know that someone’s having an emergency and we never let it be our own personal emergency at that time because we need to take care of them.”

Johnson says they review their plans and the emergency drills they do several times during any given year.

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