EMS disaster-master medics set for action
By Erika Martinez
The New York Post
Copyright 2006 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
The city has created an elite squad of "combat" paramedics trained to reach and navigate the crevices of collapsed buildings, bridges, tunnels and roads to aid injured and trapped survivors, The Post has learned.
Fifty-two FDNY rescue medics will be ready to work alongside cops and firefighters deep in the rubble of any Big Apple disaster caused by a terrorist attack or natural catastrophe. They will administer medicine and fluids to victims who previously had to wait hours, or sometimes days, for treatment.
"Our Emergency Medical Service can now provide the most advanced prehospital care to patients fighting for their lives in the most perilous situations," Chief of EMS John Peruggia said.
"With this new training, our paramedics can administer treatment faster than ever before, which could ultimately mean the difference between life and death."
The trailblazing medics went through nearly three weeks of rigorous instruction alongside firefighters at the department's "rescue school" on Randalls Island and will be hitting the street on Dec. 3, with one ambulance in every borough.
Each paramedic selected for the unit has experience working in haz-mat situations.
With that knowledge as a base, they spent 80 hours in harnesses and protective masks while learning how to maneuver through small, cluttered spaces, shimmy through narrow tunnels, and rappel down ropes to get to their patients.
Some have credited the combination of those tactics and a complex understanding of emergency medicine with saving Port Authority Sgt. John McLoughlin, who was given fluids and medicine while he spent nearly 22 hours trapped under the smoldering ruins of the Twin Towers. He was played by Nicolas Cage in the movie "World Trade Center."
A trapped victim "must be treated before they are completely extricated" to increase survivability, explained Lt. Rafael Goyenechea, 44, a 19-year EMS veteran and Rescue Medic supervisor.
The groundbreaking program was paid for with a $2.2 million federal grant from the United States Fire Administration, FDNY officials said.
Paramedics handpicked for the squad realize they are pioneers in the field of emergency medical service.
"Years ago, you wouldn't have thought we'd be working side by side with firefighters in a collapse or a trench. It was unheard of," said Brooklyn paramedic Joel Pierce, an 11-year veteran.