If, in moving through your life, you find yourself lost...go back to the last place where you knew who you were, and what you were doing, and start from there. Bernice Johnson Reagon.

07 November 2011

What we got heah….

…is failya…to commun’cate. 


Anyone who has seen the absolutely superb movie “Cool Hand Luke” no doubt remembers that scene. It is one of my two favorite movies of all time, and by far that is my favorite scene of any movie.

Failure to communicate.

You would think that in this day and time communication would not be a problem. As a society we are very ‘connected’. The phone that I carry can connect me with anyone in the world in an instant. I can access weather reports, the internet, and the blogosphere, as well as drug information, and a whole host of other information in a matter of seconds.

My television has access to hundreds of channel via cable. Via my home phone I can call anyone in the world. My laptop that I am typing this on connects me to the internet, various instant messaging programs, Skype, and all manner of TV and radio.

At work, we have a digital radio system that enables me to talk not only to my co-workers anywhere in the almost 860 square miles in my county, but, being part of a statewide network, I can talk to other agencies and responders beyond my county’s borders. Add to that multiple ‘talk groups’ with multiple channels each, and there is a lot of capability.

Contrast that to ’the old days’. I carried a couple of quarters to make phone calls. We did not have ‘call waiting’ or ‘call forwarding’. On many long distance calls you had to get an operator involved. We had three TV stations. To get our news we had to, egad, read the newspaper.

And back in ‘the day’ our radios were limited, too. Pretty much ‘line of sight’ was the most we could expect. In one county I worked in we had one fire channel and one EMS/rescue channel. In that county a large metro area about 200 miles away constantly overrode our transmissions. And the EMS channel was a statewide channel.

I guess you could say that communication has come a long way. When we use it.

Yep, when we use it. And when we don’t, well, that causes surprises on the emergency scene. And if a little communication will prevent some of those surprises, well, why don’t we?

I tried to find a Timeless Tactical Truth about keeping secrets and preventing surprises, so I guess I will write it now-

“There should be no secrets on an emergency scene. Secrets cause surprises. Surprises are seldom good.”

Basically, that means share the information. We have the ability today, more so than at any time in the past, to share information. For EMS, that means taking a little something from the fire department’s playbook. If you haven’t noticed lately, the guys and gals here in the Capital City are providing a lot of information on their size-ups. It’s change, and it is something to get used to, but they seem to be getting better and better at it.

Unfortunately, here in the EMS world, we have gotten pretty reliant on ‘the button’. The button on the MDT that says “arrived”. The problem with that button is that it does not relay a lot of information, other than you have arrived.

Lately, I have been assigned to a single person unit. I get dispatched to calls with other units and a lot of times I am not the first on the scene. So recently I was dispatched on a “not a cardiac arrest” call. Somewhere along the line that call was upgraded to a “cardiac arrest”. Several more units were trying to add themselves to the call.

Anyway, the first unit arrived. Then the second. Then the third. There was nothing more than a change in status on the MDT map.

So I arrived and noticed one of the responders standing at the back of the residence. Not knowing what the actual situation was, I asked if the need anything. The reply was for a particular piece of equipment to move the patient.

Well, since we work full arrests in place, and no one had announced “working code”, I retrieved the specified article and walked around to the back of the residence.

To discover chest compressions and ventilation in progress.

Over the course of the call a couple of pieces of equipment were needed that would have been on hand if the announcement “working code” had been made.

Over the years I have had a lot of those not-so-pleasant surprises from on-scene units that had not provided a verbal update. A few cardiac arrests, gunshot wounds, babies in the process of being born, and more.

And it is so easy to avoid those surprises. Let some one know what is going on. Everyone is quick to say “you can cancel” (well, most of the time). So why not let someone know if you are working a code, have multiple patients, or the like.

In this day and time, we should avoid the “failya to commun’cate” every chance we get.