One of the most important sounds a police officer can hear after an officer down call is someone shout, EMS is here! .
When the Group of 20 Summit convened in Pittsburgh, PA, protesters launched campaigns challenging emergency response agencies. Throughout the week, images in the media showed police in riot gear, protestors shouting and throwing rocks and garbage cans, and the smoke of tear gas drifting through the streets.
What was not seen and not in the least obvious was the totality of the emergency response reaction. While the police had a difficult and challenging job, moving among them in full riot gear, helmets, body armor and visibly indistinguishable from the police were highly trained emergency medical services personnel from the Bureau of Emergency Services.
While the police struggled to establish and maintain order in what could have become an order less situation, EMS teams were in the thick of it with a single purpose, treating the injured and wounded and using their extensive training to save lives wherever necessary.
Known by their formal name, City of Pittsburgh, Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Emergency Services, more than 200 members of the Fraternal Association of Professional Paramedics, I.U.P.A. Local #22, were among the Bureau personnel providing an unprecedented level of public service and public safety.
Unlike most jurisdictions where EMS personnel are traditionally under the direction of the Fire Department, Pittsburgh EMS is a separate unit in its own right. They are highly trained in rescue and response techniques that range from advanced life support services to dealing with weapons of mass destruction.
In addition to giving immediate medical treatment to police officers and citizens the worst occur such as a bombed building collapsing or any other calamity causing mass destruction, they are prepared to risk their own safety to save lives.
During the G 20 meetings the EMS deployed an estimated 450 medical emergency personnel to ensure the success of their mission and to meet their sworn duty. Heavy rescue units were in place along with hazardous material teams and even water rescue personnel who are not only master SCUBA divers, but also paramedics.
With more than twelve hundred hours of basic training in everything from pediatrics to deep water rescue, as well as taking an additional twenty four hours of in-service training every year, paramedics are constantly being prepared to meet all sorts of professional challenges, especially those they faced during the G 20 summit.
Pittsburgh is no stranger to a host of special events for which the EMS Bureau is trained to handle. With several major professional sports franchises such as Steeler football, Pirate baseball, and Penguin hockey teams, they are accustomed to dealing with sometimes unruly crowds. Add to that events involving as many as a quarter of a million attendees at any major event such as college and university events, concerts, major corporate shareholder meetings, public school events, and festivals, there is no shortage of experience within the Bureau.
Formed more than thirty years ago, the EMS Bureau serves an average of 70,000 people who call for EMS help each year. In any single day they will receive several hundred calls for service. With G 20 in full action that experience was crucial to their ability to respond to the new demands on top of their every day actions.
In addition to the more traditional ambulance service for advance life support, the Bureau includes sophisticated emergency boats to service the three rivers that flow together to form the Golden Triangle. Other equally important equipment includes triage tents, mass casualty trucks and hazmat equipment in their panoply of emergency equipment. To ensure maximum mobility in crowds, they include motorcycles, bicycles, and even established foot posts throughout the city.
The Motorcycle Response Unit (MRU) is equipped with advanced life support equipment (ALS). The motorcycle medics can maneuver safely and quickly through traffic and large crowds thus allowing for faster ALS care to arrive sooner at the patient's side.
Likewise, the Bicycle Medic Unit (BMU.) can provide medical coverage for large spectator events where other vehicles can t maneuver safely. The bicycles, staffed with paramedics, are able to offer medical care faster than the traditional method when dealing with large crowds.
To make all this work and to meet the challenges of the G 20 summit, Pittsburgh EMS worked closely not only with their own brothers and sisters in the Pittsburgh Police Department, but with various County and State Police agencies, the FBI, the US Marshals and the Department of Homeland Security among others.
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