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EMS Response to Increased Violence During Protests

Safety is of the utmost importance for all responders during protests. Unfortunately, the likelihood that emergency responders are called upon to respond to a civil unrest event seems higher than ever before. Emergency Medical Services, already weighed down by the high demands of COVID-19, have faced added pressure responding to protests ignited by the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.

In such critical situations, the need to protect against the coronavirus adds another complication for the EMS crews. In addition, their personal protective equipment can be challenging to wear in a crowd, not to add the challenges faced when switching from that gear to the equipment needed to shield themselves from rubber bullets, rocks, or tear gas.

As our society becomes more complex day by day, Emergency Medical Services must overcome the fatigue caused by months of fighting COVID-19 and spring right back up. They must gain the knowledge and understanding to keep up with growing tension. Acts of protest and demonstration take place almost every day across the country, in which many emergency medical services officers have worked rigorously for the past several weeks to bring the situation under control.

Emergency Medical Technicians or EMTs are trained to handle emergencies in large events. An added consideration is how they can distinguish themselves from the police and deflect any crowd hostility. For this, in some states, "medic" is printed on their vests.

Treating sick or injured people while participating in a protest has become more challenging due to the pandemic. And, complicating the work is the crowd as well as the chaos caused by them. These factors can make it difficult to assess health needs when a call for help comes in. In addition, when a sick person seeks medical help, the crowded environment may hamper the relaying of important information.

As tear gas and other methods used by the police to control demonstrators cause symptoms similar to those associated with COVID-19, a tactical team of medics is trained to handle such extreme situations. They also embed with police to provide medical support while ambulances are always on standby.

Law enforcement, firefighters, and EMS all share the same priorities during civil unrest. Coordination, planning, and collaboration are crucial in such situations as several issues must be addressed. For example, the police will need firefighters and EMS coverage during the event. Firefighters may need to extricate protesters from locking mechanisms. EMS may need to provide tactical medics. Law enforcement will need to provide security and watch over the fire/EMS units entering the "exclusion area" or "hot zone" of a civil unrest event. That is why they work together to restore peace.

Safety is the number one priority for all responders. Trained tactical medics from law enforcement agencies, fire service, and emergency medical services are an excellent resource to put an end to the turbulence occurring all across the United States, especially during a time when the world is already struggling to overcome the pandemic.

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