Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Blue Lights and Volunteers

Over the past few days, there's been a Change.org petition circulating to expand the privileges of volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel who use "courtesy lights". Here in PA, those lights are blue (and ONLY blue) and give you NO legal right to do anything more than an average driver.

In all my years in Fire/EMS, I've never used blue lights to respond to a call or a firehouse. Many of my volunteer originations have staffed the station in readiness for calls, and I've had no desire to spend money on lights for my car.

Anyway - the petition is here: https://www.change.org/p/pennsylvania-general-assembly-change-the-laws-regarding-volunteer-firefighters-courtesy-lights-in-pennsylvania - it calls for volunteer vehicles with "blue lights" to get the rights and privileges of emergency vehicles, and be able to use sirens/horns as warning devices too.


Want to know why the PA State Police and other agencies don't want us to have blue lights, and why we are our own worst enemy? Look at this picutre:

Yesterday, I was driving eastbound on the PA Turnpike. As I passed the Mid-County interchange (76/476) in moderate traffic, this yellow BWM zipped past me in the shoulder with a blue dash light. He then proceeded to weave in and out of the exit lane, causing at least one car to have to swerve to miss him. He then continued east on the Turnpike, again driving on the shoulder (next exit was miles away).

I don't know what the crisis was, but I can't fathom why s/he needed to drive like that, risking multiple accidents. There wasn't an accident on the Turnpike - just typical rush-hour traffic.

Anyway - to those who swear by blue lights, this is your enemy too - s/he makes everyone look bad. Further - think - will your community be safer with moreemergency vehicles driving around for the same number of calls?

Monday, December 01, 2014

2014 PA Scope of Practice Update



On Saturday, 11/29/14, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania published an update to the EMS scope of practice in the PA Bulletin (Found here). I’m no lawyer, but as the document highlights that IN and IM (Autoinjector) Narcan administration is OK immediately, I’m presuming that the entire scope of practice is effective immediately. For reference sake, (2011 here) is the prior Scope of Practice, dated 4/9/11.

I've compared the old and new documents line-by-line and have the results attached as a spreadsheet

Key below. Anything in RED is from the 2011 listing.

Unchanged
Scope is same or similar to previously standing protocol
Clarification
Scope is similar, but has been changed to a minor degree
Variation
Significant change in scope
New
New scope of practice either granting or restricting
Removed
Present in 2011, Absent in 2014


Here's ALL the changes as a Google Doc Spreadsheet - note the 4 tabs on the bottom
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1okvETk991oIDePwWxx4LxjJBWHgwoAd6qP6dMKjArfg/pubhtml


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

EMS and Firearms - Who Will Carry?



There's one category I will say should be permitted to carry firearms without much thought – that would be Tactical EMS providers, who function with a municipal or regional SWAT/ERT team. They should be trained and meet qualification standards set by the team, and be permitted to at least carry sidearms for defense of themselves and other members of the team.

If it will be regular street providers, then who will they be? Will they self-select? Will the service say that only certain people should be able to carry? Will the service say that certain staff members (supervisors, for example) should carry firearms? What qualifications will be required? What laws apply? Does it change if the service is requiring providers to carry?

My personal opinion would be that the providers should self-select. Carrying a firearm is a heavy responsibility, and something that one really needs to think long and hard about before they do it. Forcing someone to do it isn't really a bright idea.

Many of us elect to carry firearms for self defense off-duty. Likely we would be the core individuals considering carry on duty.

Friday, August 08, 2014

EMS and Firearms - What are the current laws pertaining to EMS carrying firearms?



What are the current laws pertaining to EMS carrying firearms?


 
PA is a rather pro-gun state. Commonwealth Licenses to Carry Firearms (LCTF) are shall-issue, and inexpensively available from every county sheriff. PA is also an Constitutional Open Carry state, wherein carrying of a firearm openly visible in a holster is legal so long as you aren't in a vehicle or in the City of Philadelphia. A LCTF is required to conceal a firearm in public, or carry one openly in Philadelphia.

If you are carrying a firearm as a duty of employment, then you enter into territory governed by the same laws as armed security. That requires some level of training and certification above the “average citizen” in many states.

There are a few places where carry is either legally questionable or prohibited. These include primary/secondary schools, jails/courthouses/correctional facilities, and areas that are federally prohibited, like federal buildings and the secure section of airports. Additionally, many other businesses post signs that indicate they would prefer folks not bring firearms onto their premises.

Additionally, in Pennsylvania, the State Department of Health currently requires that every licensed EMS agency prohibit non-LEO's from carrying firearms on their ambulances. Even outside PA, most ambulance companies prohibit firearms from their ambulances (and often buildings and premises) as a matter of “good business practice”


Oh, and as always, I'm not a lawyer. This isn't legal advice, etc, etc, etc.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

EMS and Firearms – an Intro



Over the last few years, I've been involved in multiple discussions regarding EMS providers carrying firearms in the performance of their duties. Many of my friends often assume that I'd take the pro-gun side, but my answer is far more complex.

Credit to Kip Teitsort of DT4EMS

In the last week, this has risen to prominence in many EMS circles, with several good friends doing podcasts on it.

For those that don't know, in addition to being a paramedic, I'm a state-licensed Agent under PA's Lethal Weapons Act 235. In short, I've got a PA Armed Security Guard certification. I've carried a firearm for employment, and had additional defensive tactics training. I occasionally work in a gun store, I often carry a concealed firearm for self-defense, I've long been involved in firearms-centric state-level political activism, and I'm a NRA-credentialed instructor and life member. In short, compared with many, I know a LOT about firearms.

Since I'm so pro-gun, folks assume I'm a proponent of EMS being allowed to carry firearms. My response? Not so fast!

First, let me say... I have NO reservations about on-duty commissioned Law Enforcement Officers providing EMS or working on ambulances. They complete significant defensive tactics and firearms training, and have a duty belt full of tools to de-escalate situations if needed. I've been working with folks like this all summer.

Secondly – I have a moderately strong understanding of various firearms-related laws, because if I screw up, I could go to jail, and lose my rights to own guns ever again. That said, I am not a lawyer. Nothing I write should be construed as legal advice in any way/shape/form.

Thirdly – I will try to be general, but some of my answers will be Pennsylvania specific, because that's the area I know best.

If EMS is going to carry, there are a few questions that must be addressed, and over the next week, I will expand on these questions:

What are the current laws pertaining to EMS carrying firearms?
Who will carry firearms?
How will they be carried?
Why is EMS carrying firearms?
What are the risks of EMS carrying firearms?
Where can EMS carry firearms?
What qualifications/training are required?
Who is going to certify those qualifications are met?
How will firearms carry change how EMS is perceived?
Who is going to be liable for EMS providers USING firearms for self-defense?