Controversies in Fire and EMS: Reading Past the Headlines


Lately it seems the people of been more attracted to headlines and controversies than real conversations. It’s understandable in a way. If someone wants to be the center of attention, one of the easiest ways is to say something controversial. Someone is sure to refute what you’ve said, and soon a crowd gathers.

While I don’t expect to have much of an effect on this in the big picture, I hope to contribute in some way at least in emergency services to reduce the “this vs. that” mentality that often polarizes people who, if they talk it out, would find that their fundamental positions are not actually that far apart. This is true whether you’re talking in the fire service about transitional attack and through the front door or straight stream and solid stream, or in EMS about air and ground transport, or intubation and BVM. The list goes on and on.

Did you see what I did there? I simply replaced the “VS” which automatically demands that people consider no additional options, choose only one side or the other, and implies that one side wins and one side loses. I replaced it with “AND” which opens up the possibility of having a conversation about these topics and probably more. A simple change to “AND” lets us take a look at the pros and cons of each element of the conversation and, hopefully, look past the headlines that promote them so that we can consider real information and, hopefully, move towards real solutions.

It’s a lot to ask for people to try to do this and the rest of their lives. Some people say that human beings have a natural inclination to gather around conflict shouting “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!”. That may be true for a lot of people, but I believe that emergency responders are the kind of people who would show up to stop a bully or break up a fight.

Headlines and controversies can be fun to read and sometimes even spark a good debate, but they are like candy.  Great now and again, but if it’s all you live off you’re going to get sick.

About romduck

Rom Duckworth is a dedicated emergency responder, author, and educator with more than thirty years of experience working in career and volunteer fire departments, hospital healthcare systems, and private emergency medical services. Rom is a career fire captain and paramedic EMS Coordinator for the Ridgefield (CT) Fire Department and director of the New England Center for Rescue and Emergency Medicine. Rom holds a master’s degree in public administration, is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer program, and is the recipient of the NAEMT Presidential Award, American Red Cross Hero Award, Sepsis Alliance Sepsis Hero Award, and the EMS 10 Innovators Award. Rom is the author of "Duckworth on Education," as well as chapters in more than a dozen EMS, fire, rescue, and medical textbooks and over 100 published articles in fire and EMS magazines. A member of the NAEMT Board of Directors, as well as other national and international advocacy and advisory boards, Rom continues to work for the advancement of emergency services professions. Contact Rom via