That's Why We're Here, But That's Not What We Do

I got in a spirited discussion with a co-worker recently about the need for Paramedics in the modern Fire Service.  They railed on and on about how there is no EMS in the Fire Service, that we are here to put out fires, make rescues and do other fire related tasks and that EMS should be left to someone else.  When pressed for who exactly that should be they had no solutions, only a request that they personally not have to do "all that medic type stuff."

Bad news folks, EMS is going to be in the Fire Service for a long time, regardless of how much that third service idea gains traction.  The reason is because not every community can afford to pay 2 people to do 2 jobs when often 1 person can do both.

Simple math.

The key to recognizing the mission of the modern Fire Service is first coming to terms with the title of this post.  We are here to fight fires, but that is not what we do.  Increasingly the fire service has had to absorb other duties in the community for a number of reasons from shrinking budgets in other agencies to decreasing fire calls and a need to justify staffing.

Trouble is, when the reason a fire engine is in the community arises, we need it staffed by enough trained professionals to handle the problem.  Try telling Mrs Jones that the reason her house is now a parking lot is because budget cuts didn't allow a third person on the engine.  Sorry, that isn't going to cut it.

In between fires we need to be seeking out other ways to have a positive impact on the community.  For many that means running EMS calls.  Some will complain that those resources are needed on the EMS side and we should just move those jobs from the engine to the ambulance and solve all the problems.

Math is hard for these people.

Imagine the roles reversed for a moment.  Fire Engines are slow to respond because there are too few, but a large group of Ambulances seem to respond to fires and make a difference in the early stages.  Why not move those employees to the engines so you don't have to do that anymore?


We can do both from a single platform and that doesn't mean making every big red truck ALS or putting airpacks on every big box patient mover.  What it does mean is that those in the fire service need to recognize that the engine is there for a specific purpose and when not in use needs to be used for something else whenever possible.

EMS is not why the Fire Department is here.

BLS is not why the ambulances are here.

But that is what we do.

Day in and day out our preconceptions become misconceptions and your desire to get off the ambulance and onto the engine has simply changed when you arrive.  Same patient, same problems.

Too many today speak of the ambulance as if it is a disease that makes them less of a firefighter.  I've heard it here and many other places.  "I'm not on the box today, I was on it yesterday.  Today is my engine day."  So?

Why are you here?  What are you going to do today?  How many fires will you catch?  How many medical aids?

We spend so much time touting "Expect Fire" and throwing ladders that in the rare instances those actions apply they are second nature.  In the same shift we will make an arguably equal impact on far more people because of what we do in between fires.


Ask yourself, "What am I here for?"