DC Investigating Failure to Render Aid Allegations

DC Fire & EMS is investigating the allegations that firefighters at Truck 15 failed to render aid to a man suffering a heart attack last Saturday. Fox5 has excellent news coverage, and Dave Statter has additional details.

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The allegations raise the all too common questions associated with duty to act: when do emergency responders have a duty to act – and how much is enough?

It is important not to rush to judgment in cases like this. Recall the December 2009 allegations against two FDNY EMTs who were in a coffee shop and allegedly refused to render aid to a pregnant woman who was dying because they were on a coffee break.  It turned out the pair were actually dispatchers who were regulars in the coffee shop.

While in line getting coffee one of the employees recognized them as dispatchers and asked if they could call an ambulance for a co-worker who was ill. There was no mention the coworker was gravely ill, nor were they requested to check on the woman. The dispatchers immediately called the office and an ambulance was promptly dispatched. When the woman and her baby later died her family accused the EMTs of refusing to get up from their “coffee and bagels” to attend to the gravely ill patient because they were arrogantly “taking a coffee break”.

We will be discussing this case and more at FDIC in April in Leadership Case Studies: Duty to Act. It is a fascinating topic and we will now have even more to talk about with the Truck 15 incident, along with the Alameda, California drowning, the Sugarloaf, Maine incident, and many, many more.

Also – not to overlook Fox5’s timely discussion of firefighter misconduct on a massive scale in DCFEMS, they are by no means alone as many departments are struggling with disciplinary issues on an unprecedented scale. We will be discussing these challenges in Fire Department Administrative Investigations and Firefighter Discipline, scheduled for Southlake, TX February 10-11, 2014; Georgetown, TX March 3-4, 2014; Phoenix, AZ April 14-15; Lakeland, WA May 1-2, 2014; Nashville, TN May 6-7, 2014. Check on the Courses Tab for more details.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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