Paying It Forward

The life-saving work of Carmen Burnette will continue for generations to come

I attended the National EMS Memorial Service in Colorado Springs, CO, on June 23. The service is always a sorrowful occasion, especially when you see small children left behind after a parent has died in the line of duty.

Such was the case for Carmen Burnette, who left behind more than memories and a young family. Her lifesaving work will continue for generations to come.

“Pay it forward” was Carmen’s mantra and it was the driving force behind everything she did. She began her work as an emergency medical technician in 1998 and quickly became a well-known face in her community of Putnam County, TN. Carmen earned her paramedic license in 2000 and was soon selected as one of the first field training officers with Putnam County EMS in 2002. She was the Putnam County EMS CPR Coordinator from the inception of the program until her untimely death. In this role, she was responsible for scheduling CPR/AED training for county employees, local church groups, the Tennessee American Legion Boys State program and students at the county’s local high schools.

Under her nine-year leadership as CPR Program Coordinator for Putnam County EMS more than 14,000 residents of Putnam County were trained or retrained in CPR/AED use. In July 2011, a few months after Carmen’s death, a former student used the life-saving skills learned in Carmen’s CPR training class to save the life of his 3-year old brother who was injured in a swimming pool accident.

In April 2012, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed into law a bill requiring Tennessee High School students receive “hands-on” CPR training in addition to the cognitive skills being taught. This bill was named the Carmen Burnette Act of 2012.

For more about her life and legacy, visit