Emergency medical personnel, both civilian and military, play a crucial role in everyday emergencies as well as mass casualty disasters. The Emergency Medical Service has a proud tradition of saving lives through the rescue and resuscitation of victims. Much like combat medics, EMS personnel take many life-threatening situations and turn victims into survivors.
In many jurisdictions, EMS personnel are involved in a volume of calls that exceed other providers. Therefore, the potential for stress due to volume and intensity of the emergency activities can be high. When coupled with a large-scale disaster such as Hurricane Katrina or 9/11, however, normal stress levels can be greatly exacerbated.
Mass casualty disasters can also bring about a different set of stressors that EMS personnel may not normally face. For example, during 9/11 at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, there were very few rescues; very few "save" opportunities. Many EMS personnel at Ground Zero were tasked with collecting body parts instead of helping to save lives simply because there were very few survivors. Many EMS personnel found this difficult to cope with.
Coping with the challenges of everyday stress in the EMS world of life and death, dealing with disaster reactions, and preparing for future mass casualty incidents requires training and support. In order to deal with the stressors of emergency medical work, several lessons learned from 9/11 responders may be of assistance:
Additional lessons learned and helpful coping strategies for EMS personnel can be found in the following materials developed by 7-Dippity for 9/11 responders:
Click on a cover to download the material: