EMS is one of the greatest things invented since sliced bread. When disaster strikes, it brings out the best in most people. Even the smallest disaster can involve many people. One small house fire, may not even hit the news. Will have possibly involved: law enforcement, fire dept., ambulance crew, and Red Cross workers. Now that's a lot of people, not even counting utilities personal. Each person has their special role to play.
I don't talk about law enforcement, I simply don't know enough. However, you talk fire and medical that hits closer to home. I'm not a fireman or EMT, nor do I plan to be one. What I am is a volunteer Red Cross Emergency Responder (instructor trainer), a First Responder, and DAT Capt. I teach well over 200 a year people everything from basic CPR to becoming First Responders Instructors. I also volunteer for the local Red Cross First-aid Team
I may get a little upset with some of the EMTs, but trust me they are worth their weight in gold. They make runs for people that don't need them (911 Cab Service), than may turn around and be scraping a kid off the street. Many times than not 30 minutes from the end of the shift: they are called for some poor guy that needs transported, refuses help, or an injured drunk. We won't even discuss the lady who didn't know she was in labor, until the baby crowned.
Some (not all) EMTs look down on the First Responders. Some of the things I've heard: "The last thing I need is a FR in the way" "They don't know what they are doing" "There is no reason for them". Of course none of these people knew I was one. Maybe because by day I dress in a business suit, or because I'm a small frame female. I'm able to pretty much look over these people, but these thoughts hurt the system.
Every one has a place the system. In rural areas FRs may be the only emergency medical people available. In the metro areas (where I live) the FR should be thought of as one of the handiest tools around for an EMT. If a FR happens upon an accident, he/she has the training to: survey the scene, know to call for help, possibly make the scene safe, knows to make room for incoming units ground or air, and start treatment if needed. The FR has much of the same basic vocabulary and knowledge as basic EMT. Which allows them to be a great set of extra hands. While the more advanced trained people are treating, the FR can fetch equipment, support non injured family members, and treat less injured, allowing the highest trained to work on the most severe injured. We are also great at keeping bystanders away.
When I'm training FRs in my area, I include in my training a warning, "Never expect an EMT to say thanks for the help" Of course if a person is looking for someone to thank them, another area of social work may be a better calling. I've been stopping and helping since 1988, only once has an EMT not working for the Fire Dept. in my city said "Thanks".
The real "thanks"" is the feeling of knowing that you did your best to help someone.
Fire fighters are a breed of their own. High risk, fair pay (if paid at all), and some of the nicest people I've ever met. I don't fight fires, but through my volunteer work as a Red Cross Disaster Action Team Caption, I see my fair share.
My first fire had a fatality (crispy critter). The "gentleman" that was training me, decided to have fun. We were called out before anyone discovered there were no survivors. My partner found out before me. When I asked him where the victims were, he simply turned his flashlight on what I thought was a piece of burnt wood. Well I earned my respect that night, I simply turned to my partner and asked, "So what are suppose to do?" I never lost it, but did think about pay back. After that night I knew I could handle anything "the boys" could dish out.
Since that time I've watched fire fighters I know go into burning houses to save someone, some times with luck - sometimes, not. I watched a fire fighter pull a woman out of a burning house only three doors down from my own home, pull off his helmet and start CPR with out waiting for a face shield (I had to tell him she had the mumps), but that didn't matter to him. I've seen strong men hurt as they looked for the bodies of children. Fire fighters are a "breed of their own".
There is also the lite-side. Some areas of town have more fires than others. There are a few chiefs I see more of, than I see of my own family. When I pull up in the van they know that hot coffee is ready to be served, along with a smile and a little bit of humor. Then there is a few of the guys I have to wonder about. Like the one that walked me under the waterfall, to see his chief. Normally that would not be a problem, expect I wasn't carrying the pager so I didn't have my boots and coat with me. What I did have, was a white Red Cross t-shirt and blue jeans. By the time I got to the chief, my jeans were soaked to the knees and I was ready for a "wet t-shirt contest". Then there is the Murphy's Law, if wearing a nice dress suit, and heals the odds of the pager going off double, and the station that called you is one you never met. I just love explaining that I am capable of surveying the damage in heals and a dress, and that underneath is the same person that comes out in the middle of the night to the roughest areas of town to do the same thing (just dressed different).
In our area if a fire dept. is called out to a person's home they can call the DAT out to assist the family. Our response time is normally less than 30 minutes. During this 30 minutes, the caption is paged and gotten out of the shower, movie, a sound sleep, or something else we won't discuss. They will call a partner, the two met in a central location, and ride together to the fire scene. Once there, the Fire Chef is contacted. The damage is assessed, family needs are addressed. Normally with in 15 to 20 minutes, the family has a place to sleep, vouchers for new clothing, and food. The paper work has already been started, by sun rise Red Cross office will have the paperwork and be ready to give other assistance if needed. The Fire Dept. can also request canteen service for them selves and other emergency workers. Any fire fighter that has worked a large structure fire, grass fire, or oil fire can tell you its a long hot job. We bring light snacks, coffee, and cold drinks for fires less than 4 hours. Real food for anything more than 6 hours.
In the end it all fits, every one does their job. Law enforcement secure the scene, fire fighters handle the structure, EMTs and FRs handle the injured, and other volunteers take cover all the loose ends.