Keeping Scenes Safe From FLEAs

On the latest EMS Standing Orders Podcast, the panel discussed EMS scene safety issues and whether or not EMS providers should be allowed to carry weapons.  One of the panelists was Eric Dickinson, whose article  Survive Your Next Shift appeared in the July, 2009 issue of JEMS.  Dickinson has experience in both EMS and law enforcement.  On the podcast he stated that he believed people who have permits to carry a concealed weapon should not be prohibited from carrying while at work.

I have no issue with law abiding citizens, who have permits, carrying concealed weapons.  My experience with EMS people, however is that the ones who most want to carry are the last ones who should be allowed to.  They are the Frustrated Law Enforcement Applicants, or FLEAs.

FLEAs very much want to be a police officer, but are repeatedly turned down.  Their resumes  FLEAs often include work in security, probation & parole, and corrections.  Then they get into EMS because they want to help people.  And to ask all the cops when their department will be hiring next.

FLEAs have infected every EMS organization I’ve been with, and were most prevalent at volunteer and lower-paying McEMS agencies.  They have nick names like Tackleberry, G.I. Joe, and Hurricane. They are the 1% who make 99% of requests for police because of hostile family members.

Until a police department makes the mistake of hiring them, FLEAs enforce laws from the ambulance.  Nusring home falls become crime scenes, and elderly onlookers are warned not to get too close or they will be locked up.  By whom, I don’t know.

Assessments become interrogations.  So what exactly were you doing when your chest pain started?  Mowing the lawn?  We have a witness in another room who said you were just sitting here.  So which is it? 

On a good day they are annoying, on a bad one they are dangerous.  A real police officer, who worked part time with McEMS, explained to me how the academy is designed to weed out FLEA personalities.  And these are the people who not only believe that carrying a firearm at work is necessary, but that they are the most qualified to do so.

We in EMS need to take safety seriously.  We need formal training in how to manage scenes and deescalate hostile situations and get away from violence.  Skip Kirkwood’s article about safety is a good start.  In the mean time, please don’t let FLEAs near a gun at work.



  1. I understand the place you’re coming from. I’ve been around the aptly named “FLEA” for large portions of my life. In the Maine Corps it seemed that one of every two Marines wanted to be a police officer after the left the Corps. I managed to escape them while in college but after graduation I was forced to deal with them once again. Working in corrections we have people that stumbled into the job and those that want to be police officers and have been unsuccessful. They can be a pain, no question about it. I guess I’ve been lucky in that I’ve yet to encounter any in EMS.

    That said, using this minority of providers to keep the majority from being able to take steps to protect themselves is simply ridiculous. While I’m not currently working in an area where crime is really a big problem there are many of our brothers and sisters that are. They should be able to take any step necessary to ensure they make it home to their loved ones at the end of their shift. If that means we may have an idiot or two that choose to carry a gun at work then that’s what will happen. We know these people are strapping a pistol on as soon as they get off duty so it isn’t going to make a huge difference as far as their activity is concerned. However it may help you, or me, make it home at the end of the day. That’s all the justification I need.

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