Do EMTs, or other people working on an ambulance, go into dangerous situations? I've found conflicting reports and don't know what source is reliable. I'm inclined to believe the one that was talking about a crew's legal and financial liability if they fail to respond in a timely manner, because people are quick to yell about lawsuits.
Working in EMS is inherently dangerous. We mitigate those risks as best as we can, but it’s still a dangerous job. There are dangers like what you think of, and dangers maybe you won’t expect, so let’s talk!
First off, EMTs and paramedics are taught, from the very first moment of our training, that if the scene isn’t safe, we don’t go in. Failure to announce “scene safety” at the start of skills testing is grounds for failure.
Think through the logic: if we get hurt, who’s going to treat anybody?
But we also do insanely stupid and dangerous things, like drive ambulances (which have no safety standards in the US) or get into helicopters and land them where we really shouldn’t be landing helicopters. Paramedics die en route to scenes and on the way to hospitals.
You see what that box in the back is made of? That’s wood. That’s not aluminum. That’s a goddamn wooden box going down the road at 80mph, a big target for drunks and people who blast their radios. It happens, multiple times a year. It’s just that it’s a car accident, not a shooting, so no one plasters it all over the news.
(source) This is one of the more-intact photos I could find of a medevac crash.
But we also die on scenes. When shit goes sideways, it goes fast. A drunk pulls a knife, or a gun. A patient on PCP goes out of control. A drunk district attorney walking in traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge all of a sudden decides to strangle an EMT.
Now, some EMTs and paramedics are also firefighters, or work with specialty FD units like rescue companies, or work with specialty PD units like SWAT. (I think members of the NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit actually all have to be either EMTs or paramedics; I’m not sure about other agencies). Medics are also part of search-and-rescue helicopter missions, but all of these people are specially cross-trained.
Now, you talk about liability. If the scene isn’t safe for us, we can’t be expected to provide patient care, which eliminates our liability. There’s also usually institutional policies that protect the individual providers’ decisions. We’re an unarmed, typically unarmored, group. We’re not criticized for choosing our safety over treating a patient.