NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - In a city with go-cups and massive parades, split by the country’s longest river and pocked with potholes the size of craters, it stands to reason that things in the Crescent City happen a little differently. And the Emergency Medical Service is no exception.
In fact, the New Orleans EMS is unlike most other services, highly trained to save people in nearly any situation.
“It’s the reason why I love my job. I love taking care of people, but over here at New Orleans EMS, I get to take care of people in the strangest situations,” said Cedric Palmisano, deputy chief of Special Operations at New Orleans EMS.
Palmisano is no stranger to those “strange” situations, his crews are trained for it, Like when a man climbed nearly 200-feet up an electrical tower and wouldn’t come down.
“Me and my team were able to get up to the patient that was naked,” Palmisano explained. “If he started trying to grab for us or looked like he was about to jump, we were ready to give him ketamine in order to sedate him and bring him down safely without him hurting himself, and that’s exactly what we did.”
The man was treated and taken to a hospital, and Palmisano credits the high angle rescue training his crews received for making that rescue possible.
That training is just one piece of the rescue puzzle at New Orleans EMS. In fact, they’re one of the only services in the state that is fully equipped with a rescue truck, loaded with gear and tools to get into tight spaces and rescue people from impossible places.
“It’s extremely rare for a third-party EMS service to be doing vehicle extrication or any sort of rescues like that,” said Jay Winston, an EMS medic who trains recruits on rescue equipment.
The rescue truck is equipped with vehicle extrication tools - the kind of stuff you’d normally see firefighters using, but in New Orleans, EMS has the tools, too.
“While I’m extricating someone, I’m focused on patient care also. That’s what makes it a game-changer for us,” Winston said.
The rescue truck has several tools that can help medics get into homes without breaking doors to treat a patient. They also have water rescue gear that allows a medic to dive as deep as 20 feet to rescue people underwater.
New Orleans EMS also has small ambulances that can get around in crowded streets during events like like Mardi Gras, and they’re equipped with all the medical equipment you’d find in a normal ambulance.
Medics are trained for dangerous situations, and a handful have special tactical training that gives them the expertise to go into a situation with SWAT.
“The greatest opportunity to save lives occurs within the first 10 to 15 minutes of an assault, so that's why we have to go in with the police officers in order to save as many lives as we can,” Palmisano said.
It’s why EMS is trained to enter into an active shooter scene alongside police.
“It is no longer acceptable for us to just wait outside of a school shooting while police officers are going in. We have to assume some of that risk,” Palmisano said.
Every medic can suit up in personal protection equipment that allows them to go into a so-called warm zone - or area not yet secured by police - and treat victims who need help fast.
“So, we have these kits that are filled with tourniquets, chest seals, combat gauze. Our purpose for going in is to quickly put a tourniquet on somebody, put a chest seal on somebody, move on to the next person. Time is everything,” Palmisano said.
The tactical medics get even more training and will work side-by-side with SWAT to enter hot-zones. They’re equipped to treat the men and women wearing the badge and even their K-9 companions in the field.
It’s an approach to rescues and treatment that covers every base, and in a city like New Orleans, it’s a must.
“One of the reasons why we are very good at what we do is because we have to do it a lot. The police superintendent once said that the reason why the murder rate was down was because EMS is doing such a good job at saving lives, and I like to credit that to our training and our experience,” Palmisano said.