JEMS.com Editor_s Note: Read the following story and tell us how you feel about it by answering the poll to the right.
Under a trial program with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), fire andEMS responders in several major cities are being trained to watch for suspicious activities and report them to authorities. But in a story that appeared in newspapers nationwide in November, Associated Press (AP) noted that such programs raise ˙concerns about [fire andEMS responders_] standing as American icons and infringing on people_s privacy.Ó
On the positive side: Paramedics and firefighters -- unlike police -- don_t need warrants to enter people_s homes, which allows them to spot such things as gun caches, surveillance equipment, bomb-making materials and/or behaviors that could be signs of an impending terrorist attack. ˙We_re here to help people, and by discovering these types of events we_re helping people,Ó FDNY Chief Salvatore Cassano told AP.
On the other hand: This new role could endanger EMTs and firefighters if the public begins seeing them as arms of law enforcement. This concerned former JEMS Founder and Publisher Jim Page, who took a strong stand against using paramedics or ambulances as a covert way for law enforcement to gain entrance to a crime scene. In fact, the same week in November that AP broke the story about DHS training fire and EMS responders to watch for terrorists, someone threw a chunk of wood at an ambulance inNorth Bellmore,N.Y., shattering a window and injuring the driver. ˙Police said they believe the ambulance was targeted because the outside of the vehicle is covered with police logos,Ó AP reported.
When asked about the program, Mike German, a former FBI agent who now works for the American Civil Liberty Union, said the idea was reminiscent of the Bush Administration_s 2002 proposal to have letter carriers, telephone repair people and others, with access to private homes report suspicious behavior. ˙Americans universally abhorred that idea,Ó he told AP.What do you think?Would you want to be trained to watch for potential terrorists and expected to report suspicious people or materials you spot in a patient_s home?