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Thread: Do firefighters and EMS have any obligation to respond?

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    Do firefighters and EMS have any obligation to respond?

    It's well noted and documented that the Supreme Court had made it very clear that the police do not have any obligation to respond to calls, nor do they have any obligation to protect the lives of others in their presence. With that said, do firefighters and EMS fall under the same circumstances? If a house if burning down, do firefighters have no obligations to respond if a call is made? Do EMS have no obligation to respond to a call of someone having a heart attack?

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    If they are private services, any obligation is contained in their contract.

    If they are government services, even if they are private contractors working for the government, they have no obligation to respond.

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    Depends. I am both. As a Vol FF I dont have to hit all the calls and I dont. Sometimes i'm at work, sick, etc. I wont go an a medical call if it so far from the house. If its a working fire then yea i'll go. Who wouldn't!
    As a 911 EMS service we have to go. Sometimes its for BS but we go. We have never denied a run. We may have put off a transfer for a hour to take 911 calls but then we go do it.
    Also we are not covered by the Good Samaritan laws.

    There is a differance between the paid and Vol units. Each area of the US is different.

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    What your are speaking of sounds like a personal obligation to the folks who took you on as a firefighter or an EMS.

    I think the titular question is about the legal duty to respond, a duty to the victims. In other words, can someone claim he suffered a loss because firefighters or EMS did not respond or were not timely in their response?

    As there is already precedent stating that police cannot be held liable for not being responsive enough, I'd say that the same holds for firefighters and EMS.

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    Odds are..., probably no.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eye95 View Post
    What your are speaking of sounds like a personal obligation to the folks who took you on as a firefighter or an EMS.

    I think the titular question is about the legal duty to respond, a duty to the victims. In other words, can someone claim he suffered a loss because firefighters or EMS did not respond or were not timely in their response?

    As there is already precedent stating that police cannot be held liable for not being responsive enough, I'd say that the same holds for firefighters and EMS.
    I should have clarified better, but yes, that was my question. Can a victim make a legal claim for a loss if an emergency provider failed to show up, or show up in a timely manner? I know it has been ruled that the police have no *legal* duty to respond and/or protect, so I was curious if it were the same for the entire field of emergency responders.

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    Timely manor is the key word. Whose timely manor? If its you having a emergency then no one can get here fast enough. The national ave is 7 min from the time of call till we get there. We are staged enough that we are below ave, unless we have to get into the lower corner of the county then it take 15 min. That is the reason for vol FD. They are spread out and can render care till we get there. Alot of the big cities priorites calls. Some times you are moved to the bottom of the run list. Who knows how long that will take. I was in the middle of SD a few yrs ago and the lady said we have a nice vol ambulance 35 miles away. That is far. Vol is what it is. Volunteer. You can only drive so fast. You get in a wreck and kill someone, your toast. Folks call 911 all the time. We dont run light ans siren all the time. Folks call for the stupid reasons. Some just need a ride or a sandwich made.

    I'm sure you can sue for anything.

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    Once again, there is already precedent for emergency responders not responding in a "timely manner" not be held responsible in a court of law.

    You can sue for anything, but only win for what the law allows, and precedent won't allow for winning a suit based on not responding in a timely manner.

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    Morally and Ethically, a resounding "YES"!

    Legally, they probably fit the same profile as SCOTUS ruled about police officers, which is NO!.

    I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do those things to other people and I require the same of them.

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    In my 20 yrs of service as a fire fighter paramedic, i have seen all sides of the job,vol,city,Dod and contractor. As a vol i am not required to respond,as a city (professional) i was required to respond by law.As DOD i was also required, as a contractor i was also required.The only guys that have a choice are the Vols.
    Before anyone gets bent out of shape about the term professional, I hate that term. to me it has more to do with how you conduct yourself and the image you present. to me guys that earn a pay check are career not professional.Some of the guys in my Vol dept have a more professional attitude and conduct themselves as such than alot of the guys i have worked with in the other "professional" depts. Ok off my soap box now.

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    In short, when becoming an EMT (which both FFs are, and Paramedics are trained beyond), you accept your "Duty to Act". What this means is that while acting within your "Scope of Duty", you MUST act. OUTSIDE your scope of duty (on personal business), you are NOT required to act/respond.

    In layman's terms:
    When I'm on duty, I have to go to a call. If I see someone get hit by a car on the way, I have a duty to act to those new patients.

    When I'm off duty, if I see a MVC, I can drive on by LEGALLY. Morally, I probably would not, but I am well within my legal rights to pass on by.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LordFuzzywig View Post
    In short, when becoming an EMT (which both FFs are, and Paramedics are trained beyond), you accept your "Duty to Act". What this means is that while acting within your "Scope of Duty", you MUST act. OUTSIDE your scope of duty (on personal business), you are NOT required to act/respond.
    Depends upon the state. In some states it's illegal for any citizen (EMT, paramedic, or leaf-raker) to simply do nothing when another is in need. The requirements vary from state to state, but in general it can be summed up that people are required to render what assistance they can to the extent they are either trained or able.

    Even if this is not a requirement of your state, that are considerations beyond those which are merely legal. Moral and ethical considerations enter into the picture as well, and judges have often made rulings based on moral and ethical obligations to others and society as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron1124 View Post
    It's well noted and documented that the Supreme Court had made it very clear that the police do not have any obligation to respond to calls, nor do they have any obligation to protect the lives of others in their presence?
    I dispute this blanket statement. Do you have any citations/references to back up your claim.
    Last edited by since9; 12-08-2010 at 02:32 AM.
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    What I am trained and qualified to do:

    Use my firearm to defend myself and others from grave threats.
    Call 911.
    Stand by.

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    As somebody else already stated, it varies by state. In Virginia, I am covered by Good Sam Laws both as a Volunteer and a Professional Provider. As an employee of local government as a FF/Paramedic, when I am on duty, I have a obligation to respond but I have no obligation to risk my life or the lives of my crew. With that being said, our equipment and gear allow us to go much further into hazardous situations without risking ourselves. Every EMT, Paramedic and FF training manual will talk about acceptable and expected risk. We will risk a lot to save a life but should only risk a little to save property. We shouldn't enter certain violent scenes until they have been secured by law enforcement, closeness of LE, the type of scene and ease of access to the victim will play a huge roll in the decision making process. For fire calls, the type of building, how long it has been burning, the location of the fire and the probability of viable victims will all be part of that decision making process. There will never be a cut and dry answer.
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    Quote Originally Posted by since9 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron1124
    It's well noted and documented that the Supreme Court had made it very clear that the police do not have any obligation to respond to calls, nor do they have any obligation to protect the lives of others in their presence?

    I dispute this blanket statement. Do you have any citations/references to back up your claim.
    If I remember correctly those words were part of a majority opinion of SCOTUS over 30 years ago when a family sued the DC police for not responding in a timely manner when a woman was killed in her home AFTER calling the police. A good law search should find it. Oops, not SCOTUS. I seem to have mixed together more than one case.

    I found this:

    Just before dawn on March 16, 1975, two men broke down the back door of a three-story home in Washington, D.C., shared by three women and a child. On the second floor one woman was sexually attacked. Her housemates on the third floor heard her screams and called the police.

    The women’s first call to D.C. police got assigned a low priority, so the responding officers arrived at the house, got no answer to their knocks on the door, did a quick check around, and left. When the women frantically called the police a second time, the dispatcher promised help would come—but no officers were even dispatched.
    The attackers kidnapped, robbed, raped, and beat all three women over 14 hours. When these women later sued the city and its police for negligently failing to protect them or even to answer their second call, the court held that government had no duty to respond to their call or to protect them. Case dismissed.

    No Cite, but it seems to be the federal district court of D.C. made this particular ruling.
    Last edited by OldCurlyWolf; 12-08-2010 at 08:16 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by since9 View Post
    Depends upon the state. In some states it's illegal for any citizen (EMT, paramedic, or leaf-raker) to simply do nothing when another is in need. The requirements vary from state to state, but in general it can be summed up that people are required to render what assistance they can to the extent they are either trained or able.
    Is there a list or link to these states that have this requirement. I know this was discussed here a while ago, and nobody could provide any evidence that such a law existed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by since9 View Post
    Depends upon the state. In some states it's illegal for any citizen (EMT, paramedic, or leaf-raker) to simply do nothing when another is in need. The requirements vary from state to state, but in general it can be summed up that people are required to render what assistance they can to the extent they are either trained or able.
    I'm interested in which states require this. Do you have a link or reference?

    Some states have "good samaritan laws", which do not require anyone to give aid, but give civil immunity to someone who tries to help in good faith and causes further damage. That immunity is pierced if someone acts in violation of any training they've had.

    For example: a witness to a car crash, having no formal training, pulls a victim from the wreck (thinking it's the best thing to do, because Hollywood taught him that "It's gonna blow!"). By doing so, he worsens a spinal injury and the victim is paralyzed for life. Under "Good Samaritan" laws, the victim can't successfully sue the person who "helped", and caused or worsened the damage.

    On the other hand, same circumstances, but the Samaritan has had advanced first aid training, he could be sued, because he had training telling him "don't do that!", but did it anyway.


    Do you have any citations/references to back up your claim.
    since9: Yes, exactly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KBCraig View Post
    I'm interested in which states require this. Do you have a link or reference?
    Sure! Links below.

    Some states have "good samaritan laws", which do not require anyone to give aid, but give civil immunity to someone who tries to help in good faith and causes further damage. That immunity is pierced if someone acts in violation of any training they've had.
    Actually, all states have good samaritan laws, but they vary widely by state. In some states they're very good, but in others, they're fairly bad.

    Duty to rescue laws, however, do. There's no specific "duty to rescue" laws on the books here in the U.S., as our law based on English common law, which also contains no such requirement. There are portions of good samaritan laws, however, which contain duty to rescue clauses, most notable in FL, MA, MN, OH, RI, VT, WA, and WI.

    In civil law countries, such as Germany, duty to rescue is usually spelled out on the books.

    For example: a witness to a car crash, having no formal training, pulls a victim from the wreck (thinking it's the best thing to do, because Hollywood taught him that "It's gonna blow!"). By doing so, he worsens a spinal injury and the victim is paralyzed for life. Under "Good Samaritan" laws, the victim can't successfully sue the person who "helped", and caused or worsened the damage.
    Interesting you should pick that scenario, as that's precisely what happened, yet the California Supreme Court ruled that the accident victim could indeed sue her rescuer. Read more about this case, here.
    Last edited by since9; 12-15-2010 at 12:49 AM.
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    Fire and EMS are obligated.
    You call, we respond.

    If we don't, we CAN be sued.
    UNLIKE LEO.

    I too am a Vol. firefighter, and work for "private" EMS that is contracted as the county services.

    As VFF, I tooskip some calls and am unavailable.
    But we do what we can cause we LOVE IT, not for a "check".
    So if you need us, we are reliable.

    Not responding as EMS is a BAD thing.
    Not something you really wanna do.
    Lots of ugly legal ramifications, that include loss of license from state.

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    Cite?

    Many would have thought the same were true of police officers, but the courts disagreed. It is reasonable that there is a moral obligation to respond, but not a legal one. After a sufficient number of calls, the probability that a call will not be responded to in time nears certainty. It would be foolish to hold responders liable for something that is eventually going to happen.

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    Regular Member marionmedic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eye95 View Post
    Cite?

    Many would have thought the same were true of police officers, but the courts disagreed. It is reasonable that there is a moral obligation to respond, but not a legal one. After a sufficient number of calls, the probability that a call will not be responded to in time nears certainty. It would be foolish to hold responders liable for something that is eventually going to happen.
    I am bound by a "duty to act" as a paramedic.

    And I am NOT covered by the "good sam" laws because i hold national "certification" of training and state "license" to perform work in my field.
    (ain't law wonderful)

    If I were to drive past a serious accident and someone saw my NREMT sticker and took down my tag, I would have to answer to MS EMS for not acting.

    The "cite" you seek is in the DOT course textbook for EMT-Basic as well as EMT-Paramedic.
    They are published by both BRADY and AAOS.

    If the above does not apply to your particular area, then you are fortunate.
    It can put a kink in your daily routine.
    It really sucks to have to stop and render aid to non-injured MVC "victims" til ambulance arrives when your ice cream and frozen groceries are melting.
    Last edited by marionmedic; 12-30-2010 at 05:34 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marionmedic View Post
    I am bound by a "duty to act" as a paramedic.

    And I am NOT covered by the "good sam" laws because i hold national "certification" of training and state "license" to perform work in my field.
    (ain't law wonderful)

    If I were to drive past a serious accident and someone saw my NREMT sticker and took down my tag, I would have to answer to MS EMS for not acting.

    The "cite" you seek is in the DOT course textbook for EMT-Basic as well as EMT-Paramedic.
    They are published by both BRADY and AAOS.

    If the above does not apply to your particular area, then you are fortunate.
    It can put a kink in your daily routine.
    It really sucks to have to stop and render aid to non-injured MVC "victims" til ambulance arrives when your ice cream and frozen groceries are melting.
    The question in the thread is a legal one. If you answer that question yes, it is incumbent upon you to cite the law that obligates you to respond in a timely manner. That is how this site works.

    If you did not mean that you have a legal obligation, but have a strong moral one, then I agree with you.

    There is a tremendous amount of misinformation floating around out there as to what the law says--even in training material. That is why, on OCDO, it is actually one of the written rules that if you state the law, you need to cite the law.

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    Regular Member marionmedic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eye95 View Post
    The question in the thread is a legal one. If you answer that question yes, it is incumbent upon you to cite the law that obligates you to respond in a timely manner. That is how this site works.

    If you did not mean that you have a legal obligation, but have a strong moral one, then I agree with you.

    There is a tremendous amount of misinformation floating around out there as to what the law says--even in training material. That is why, on OCDO, it is actually one of the written rules that if you state the law, you need to cite the law.
    Okay,
    A little deep into things for a "gun forum", but we can get into it.


    41-60-13. Promulgation of rules and regulations by state board of health.
    The Mississippi State Board of Health is authorized to promulgate and enforce rules and regulations to
    provide for the best and most effective emergency medical care, and to comply with national standards
    for advanced life support. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, advanced life support personnel
    may be authorized to provide advanced life support services as defined by rules and regulations
    promulgated by the state board of health.
    Rules and regulations promulgated pursuant to this authority shall, as a minimum:
    (a) Define and authorize appropriate functions and training programs for advanced life support
    trainees and personnel; provided, that all such training programs shall meet or exceed the
    performance requirements of the current training program for the emergency medical technicianparamedic,
    developed for the United States Department of Transportation.
    (b) Specify minimum operational requirements which will assure medical control over all advanced
    life support services.
    (c) Specify minimum testing and certification requirements and provide for continuing education and
    periodic recertification for all advanced life support personnel
    The "law" is our PROTOCOLS.
    No matter what others do in places around the country, I have to adhere to CENTRAL DISTRICT MISSISSIPPI PROTOCOLS.

    The Medical Director "Establishes at his direction" what the EMS personnel will and won't do, as per Section 10, A-1, 2. ( http://www.msdh.state.ms.us/msdhsite...urces/2603.pdf )
    It has been decreed that "his personnel" WILL render aid at the designated level to anyone in need, or lose license.
    As to the GENERAL "duty to act" on a nationwide level subject.....
    A trained EMS professional CAN INDEED find themself in a courtroom for ignoring others.
    I think this was/is being litigated in the case of the pregnant woman who was abandoned in a NYC coffee shop by a crew that was "off duty".
    (sorry, no cite link..... but i'm sure google is friendly enough to help you find it if it's something you need badly.)
    Last edited by marionmedic; 12-30-2010 at 08:42 PM. Reason: quotes didn't post

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    Quote Originally Posted by marionmedic View Post
    Okay,
    A little deep into things for a "gun forum", but we can get into it.

    The "law" is our PROTOCOLS.
    No matter what others do in places around the country, I have to adhere to CENTRAL DISTRICT MISSISSIPPI PROTOCOLS.

    As to the GENERAL "duty to act" on a nationwide level subject.....
    A trained EMS professional CAN INDEED find themself in a courtroom for ignoring others.
    I think this was/is being litigated in the case of the pregnant woman who was abandoned in a NYC coffee shop by a crew that was "off duty".
    (sorry, no cite link..... but i'm sure google is friendly enough to help you find it if it's something you need badly.)
    Again, you stray from the question at hand. Yes, we all know that there is a moral duty to respond. There are State laws saying that local policies must be set regarding response. Surely there are local policies setting standards of responsiveness. And, in two States, there are laws stating that, if you happen upon a scene, you must render aid.

    Let me try to ask it again in the most straightforward way possible. If a call comes in and your firefighters and EMTs do not respond in time, resulting in additional losses (possibly of life), can you and the city be held financially liable in a civil suit for failure to respond in a timely manner?

    The courts have already ruled that there is no "duty to respond" for LEOs, overturning civil judgments that resulted from egregiously slow responses. I cannot imagine that FFs and EMTs would be held to a different standard.

    If you contend that they are, please cite the law, either in the form of a statute or a court opinion, that specifically states that such civil liability attaches. Otherwise, the answer to the titular question remains, "Legally, no. Morally and, not surprisingly, by policy, yes."

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