Wednesday, March 02, 2011

...It’s Carnival Time And Everybody’s Drinking Wine!

...It’s Carnival Time And Everybody’s Drinking Wine!

We find ourselves once again in that special time unique to our city, our much-loved and much-hated Mardi Gras season. There is much to hate about Carnival - the hundreds of thousands of tourists who all come from dry counties and immediately proceed to down “only” five or six Hurricanes or Hand Grenades; the ubiquitous smell; the “can you tell me where such-and-such is?” (two blocks, make a right); the overloaded emergency rooms, the ungodly traffic. There is also much to love about Carnival - EMS gets the absolute best spots on the parade routes (especially if you can back your truck right up to the route), being pelted with throws, Polish sausage & pizza, parade-goers offering you food from their grills, the big parties after the season is done, and of course, the “entertainment” that comes with French Quarter details. One of my favorite feelings is going 10-8 early Mardi Gras day and driving down St. Charles while everyone is setting up for parades; there’s hardly any other traffic and everyone is in a great mood. Good or bad, it’s uniquely New Orleans and the challenges it poses to EMS (and all the emergency services) make it a source of pride when we’ve handled it bravely every year. 

If you’re new to NOEMS, or if you’re a veteran, here’s a few pointers (and yes, I’ve seen EMTs with years of Carnival experience who still need every one of these tips. So pay attention.):

Number ONE, first and foremost, superseding all other pointers: LISTEN TO YOUR RADIO! If you’re unfamiliar with directions in the city, let your more experienced partner listen to the SPEC channel and NOPD. There is nothing worse than being one block from an emergency and not responding because you weren’t listening! 

Know what to say on the radio, especially when communicating with the police. Base 9 (NOPD parade dispatch) doesn’t care or need to know when you’re at the hospital, or that you’re waiting for a bed or whatever. This is what you need to tell them: 1. You’re leaving your assigned location. 2. You’re on scene at a parade item (but not when you get pulled for a regular 911 street call). 3. You’re back at your assigned location. By all means, ask for specifics about a call they sent you to, like if you’re having trouble finding a scene. But do not crowd up the air with “en route to whatever hospital,” or “bathroom break” or “Code 77.” Base 9 doesn’t care and the cops have actual parade-related traffic to air on the SPEC channel. 

Know where your partner is at all times! Since you’re on two different channels, he won’t know if there’s a call on your channel and you won’t know if there’s a call on his channel. Delaying response because you didn’t follow the long-established rules is unprofessional, dangerous and downright wrong. Don’t be that guy.

Do not expect free anything (except parade throws). Expect to pay full price for any snacks or drinks you buy at concession stands, even if you know for a fact that they’re offering free stuff to EMTs. Pull out your wallet to show your good intentions. If you do get anything for free, tip nicely and do not be greedy, going back for more. Otherwise, you’ll ruin it for everybody. Don’t be that guy.

If you’re on the parade route, do not scramble to get parade throws. If you catch something mid-air, great. Otherwise let the tourist or little kid have that cheap Chinese plastic thing.

Act right. Of all times of the year, stressful though it is, be nice. You never know who you’re picking up out of the gutter. I once picked up a very influential travel writer at his worst moment during Carnival. That one story from that one patient can seriously impact our city’s tourist economy for years. Let’s hope it’s a good impact. And if you can’t be nice to the patient (e.g. they’re unconscious or a real asshole), be nice to the friends. When the patient comes around, the friends will tell the patient how great the EMS crew was. Or how awful they were. This goes double, no... triple, for the crew stationed at Gallier Hall. Remember, your bosses (the city council and the mayor) are there watching you. 

Related: Act right. You know perfectly well that someone is drunkenly filming the EMTs picking up the drunk pukey guy in bad drag face down in the gutter on Bourbon Street. That video is gonna be on YouTube, HIPAA be damned. It will go viral and millions of people will see you performing EMT work. Do everything National Registry-style. Swab your IV sites. Don’t walk trauma patients who need a spineboard. Do not let patients turn blue because you didn’t feel like lugging the oxygen around. Do not stop chest compressions till there’s a pulse. I guarantee you there’s someone who will write EMS to complain after seeing that video, and then they’ll put up some huge news story about the poor patient care in NOLA. It would be far better if they wrote in to say what a perfect job was done. 

When responding in elbow-to-elbow crowds, try to get a mounted officer to lead you. People won’t get out of the way for a siren, stretcher, ambulance or ASAP unit, but they will damn sure get out of the way for a horse.

Make sure your boots are snug and protect your ankles. You WILL be walking across seas of grounded beads and you WILL slip. Do not sprain your ankle or break your leg in the process. 

Do not assume that everyone you pick up is drunk, and do not assume that the drunks you do pick up are only drunk. There are some hellacious occult injuries and medical conditions that have been missed because the crews assumed “they’re just drunk.”


Good luck with this year, guys. I miss you! 


T-MAN said...

Well said as always sir. Forgot one thing though, to all you tourist,STAY THE F"@# AWAY!!!!!!!!!!
Just saying.

Leslie said...

Great advice Sean. I will miss you this Mardi Gras as always I do. And one more thing to do during mardi GRAS season, use your FOUR digit unit call sign on all transmissions over either radio channel. We don't have time to repeat transmissions in com Ctr and neither do you. Have fun out there. Be safe