Multilevel Stupidity

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EMT assaulted while searching for patient

BETHESDA, Md. – A Montgomery County, Md. emergency medical technician (EMT) was assaulted, early Saturday morning, while searching a home for an elderly patient who had called for help.

This is just for context. The patient used her “lifeline” device to call for help. She was in fact ill. EMS responded, which is what should happen. From there it went sideways in a stupid fashion.

A woman who neighbors say is over 100 years old activated a personal emergency device around 1:00 a.m.  The company called for an ambulance, and one was dispatched from fire station #10 in nearby Cabin John.

As usual, a fire truck was also dispatched in case breaching tools were needed to enter the home.  In this case, the emergency-alert company told firefighters how to enter the house through the front door.  But that set off the home’s burglar alarm.

Stupid Level #1. The alarm company didn’t call back to confirm that an emergency existed. This is doubly stupid since the lady seems to have lived with family who should have been the first people alerted.

Stupid Level #2. I’m not an expert on Maryland law, but in my area any time we had to make entry into a building because no one was there or able to let us in, we called for the police. While the FD had the tools to make the actual entry, it’s the police who have the legal authority to do that. Otherwise, no matter how pure your intent, it’s breaking and entering.

Sleeping family members were unaware the very elderly woman had called for help.  Firefighters and EMT’s fanned out once inside the house in an effort to find the patient in distress.  A female volunteer EMT was searching the second floor of the large home, when the now-aroused homeowner encountered her.  The homeowner presumed the EMT was a burglar, and the two had a “physical altercation”, according to Division Chief Scott Goldstein of the Montgomery Co. Fire Rescue Department.

Stupid Level #3. Well maybe. What kind of clothing was the EMT wearing? Was it clear that this was someone who wasn’t a burglar? Back to wondering why the alarm company didn’t call the “first responders”. Every system I’ve had dealings with has a phone number for a person who should be called when an alarm comes in. Did that happen in this case?
Lucky Level #1. Fortunately for this EMT, Maryland is not a very firearms friendly state. In other states the headline could easily have been “EMT Shot while searching for patient”.

Police were called when the fight broke out between the homeowner and the EMT, but no one pressed charges.

Again, the cops should have been there before entry was made, or at least on the way before entry was made. No one should be charged, but the whole thing never should have happened.

The Fire-Rescue Department is studying what happened to see if procedural changes are warranted for its personnel.

My first thought would be not to let you personnel go in to a dwelling house in the middle of the night unless the police are on scene or someone in the house is awake to let you in. That’s harder to do than to say, but does Montgomery County really want to have to bury an EMT or firefighter who was killed in a case of mistaken identity?
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After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.