By Tessa Roy
I’ve had friends and family ask questions about what it’s like being an EMT, and it occurred to me that my readers might have some of the same questions, so this month’s article will be a Q & A.
Q: How clean is the back of the ambulance, really?
A: We take the cleaning of our ambulance, stretcher, and equipment very seriously. After each call and before we take another call the bedding is pulled off the stretcher and left at the hospital to be cleaned, then the stretcher is wiped down with germicidal disinfecting wipes and dressed with clean sheets, a new pillow, and fresh blankets. Our driver will stay up with the truck and use those same wipes to clean the equipment used during the call as well as the counterspace in the truck. During mud season and winter the truck is mopped out as well. So all in all, the back of the ambulance is very clean.
Q: Sometimes I see the ambulance go by with the emergency lights and siren but then farther down the road the lights and siren are off and it’s pulling into Dunkin Donuts/McDonald’s/Subway. Did the crew really need coffee that badly?
A: I guarantee we only use our emergency lights and siren for two things: we’re either heading to an emergency call or we’re rushing a very sick patient to the hospital. Sometimes we’ll turn off those emergency lights and siren because the patient drastically improved and it’s much safer to drive to the hospital going with the speed of traffic than to make everyone move over. Other times we’ll turn off the emergency lights and siren because the call we were heading to was canceled. If that call is canceled and we happen to be right next to a restaurant the crew may decide to make a pit stop for food and coffee while we’re right there. I promise we don’t abuse our emergency lights and siren just to get to Dunk’s a little faster.
Q: Do you have a pager to respond from home or do you hang out somewhere?
A: At Essex Rescue we stay in the quarters while we’re on shift so that we can respond to a call as quickly as possible. We always aim to be in the ambulance and on the road within 2 to 3 minutes of receiving a call. Several of our members also volunteer as emergency medical responders, which means that they’ll keep a radio with them at their house and if they hear a call come in nearby they’ll go to the scene to assist until the ambulance arrives.
Q: How long are your shifts and what do you do when you’re not on a call?
A: At Essex Rescue we typically work 12-hour shifts, although some people occasionally work a 24-hour shift. When we’re not on a call we’ll check the ambulance to make sure it’s in working order and that we have all the equipment we need on board. Each shift also has a few chores to do, so we’ll take out the trash and clean the kitchen, dust, or vacuum depending on the day. Once those housekeeping tasks are out of the way each crew will train for a little while and other than that the shift might be spent sleeping, watching TV, reading, or getting caught up on some work emails. It’s up to each individual and how they prefer to spend their down time.
As always if you’re interested in volunteering with Essex Rescue as an EMT or a driver please contact Colleen Nesto at 847-4859 ext 4.