The night had grown quiet and Paul was working on his last patient care reports. He sat in a parking lot behind a large cinderblock building with the engine off and the window cracked slightly - partly to let in fresh air and partly so Paul could hear anyone approaching in the quiet of the night. Because it was so quiet out there, the crash behind him sounded like an explosion.
A small Chevy Blazer had failed to stop at the intersection behind Paul and crashed head-on into the cinderblock wall. It missed Paul's QRV by less than 10 feet. When Paul's heart rate came back down to the low 100's, he got out of the QRV and looked back at the Blazer. The engine was quiet now, except for the pops and cracks it made as it cooled in the night air.
No smoke. That was a good thing.
After he called for help on the radio, Paul pulled a flashlight from the QRV and slowly walked back to the Blazer. There was only one figure visible - in the driver's seat. Paul walked around the Blazer to make sure no other victims were in the vehicle or thrown from it. He tried to open the driver's door, but it wouldn't budge. The driver remained unconscious inside.
He could have smashed the window to get in, but that would have covered the victim with glass. Paul went around the Blazer and tried each door in turn. He was able to open the rear door on the passenger's side of the Blazer. Paul crawled into the backseat and reached up to the driver, feeling for his carotid pulse. The driver was alive and had a strong pulse. Paul could also see and hear the driver breathing easily and normally.
Paul pulled the key out of the ignition and unlocked the driver's door. He got out of the Blazer and came around to the driver's door. When he opened it, the driver suddenly woke up and looked at Paul with angry eyes. He said something in Spanish; Paul didn't understand it. The driver hopped out of the Blazer toward Paul. Paul raised his flashlight and pointed it at the driver's face. The driver stopped - then suddenly spun around and placed his hands on the top of the car with his feet spread. He was waiting for Paul to frisk him.
Paul was wearing a navy-blue jumpsuit. He looked a lot like a police officer.
Paul didn't have a clue how to frisk a suspect. He was a paramedic, not a cop. So, Paul did what any man who'd seen more than one episode of Hill Street Blues would do - he faked it. He patted the driver down and - not feeling anything that seemed like a weapon - had the driver sit back in the Blazer.
Paul was just finishing the primary assessment when the ambulance arrived. As it turns out, the driver was intoxicated but not injured. Surprising, considering the amount of damage to the Blazer.
The Point of the Story
Safety is the most important thing to consider at any emergency, even before it's an emergency. Paul had to make sure the victim in this case wasn't going to hurt the rescuers before he started treatment. Since Paul couldn't communicate with the victim, it was even more important to make sure he was safe. While patting down a victim to determine if he or she has weapons isn't standard practice, the best rescuers know when to improvise. Besides, this guy practically begged Paul to verify that he was safe.
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