Two paramedics and a firefighter were among six recipients of the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor honored in a March ceremony at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Deputy Attorney General James Comey and Associate AG Robert McCallum awarded the medals—the highest national award for valor by a public safety officer, honoring heroic deeds above and beyond the call of duty—to Boston EMS paramedics James and John Ahern and Bayonne, NJ, firefighter Kevin Fitzhenry.
The Aherns were honored for rescuing a man trapped under a subway train in 2002. After gaining access to the patient, the Aherns started an IV and intubated him. They were advised to evacuate as firefighters worked to lift the train, but James Ahern remained with the victim as the train was lifted. Once it was raised, John Ahern crawled back under to assist James in extricating the victim, who was then taken to the hospital.
Fitzhenry rescued a woman from the second floor of a burning residence. Also honored were three police officers: Michael Muniz of San Antonio, TX; Barry Ralston of Amarillo, TX; and Marcus Young of Ukiah, CA.
Providers Murdered in Station
An EMT and a paramedic for Kansas City’s MAST system were shot and killed April 3 in what was described as an “ambush.”
The bodies of medic Katherine Malone, 30, and EMT Tye Brown, 33, were found at the fire station in Edwardsville, KS. Police quickly identified Malone’s ex-husband, Matthew Bass, 37, as the killer, but Bass committed suicide before he could be taken into custody.
Malone and Brown, who were each shot several times, were living together in nearby Johnson County. Malone had obtained a protection order against Bass. She and Brown were alone in the fire station the night they were shot.
“He worried about me,” Brown’s brother, Devlin Brown, a Kansas City firefighter, said. “I never worried about him.”
Another MAST medic, Mary Seymour, was shot twice in the chest while responding to a call in February, but survived and is expected to recover fully. Malone and Brown were the first MAST workers killed in the line of duty.
—Kansas City Star
Task Force to Facilitate DHS Funding
State, city, county and tribal representatives will come together to examine the process of funding first responders and help ensure monies move quickly to them through a new task force announced by the Department of Homeland Security in March.
The task force will identify state and local funding solutions that work effectively and can be applied in cases where impediments have stalled the distribution of homeland security dollars. It will operate under the DHS’ Homeland Security Advisory Council and its State and Local Officials and Emergency Response Senior Advisory Committees.
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will chair the group; Akron (OH) Mayor Donald Plusquellic will serve as vice-chair.
—Department of Homeland Security
Warning: Take Care Out There
The recent shootings of paramedics in Kansas City, MO, and Lexington, KY, have prompted warnings for all emergency-service providers to take additional care on incident scenes.
“Just because these incidents are rare doesn’t mean EMS work is without danger,” said Ken Bouvier, chair of the National Association of EMTs’ Health and Safety Task Force. “Every time we respond to a scene, we face risks. It’s up to all responders and their organizations to be aware of these risks and prepare, train and stay alert.”
Bouvier recommends that EMS managers and administrators review their response guidelines and check with field personnel to determine if they’re getting adequate pre-arrival information; if they feel free of liability when holding back from scenes that don’t appear safe; if they’re comfortable with their ability to assess and react to potentially violent scenes; and if they’re comfortable with current levels of police responsiveness to dangerous calls.
In addition, the International Association of Fire Chiefs urges departments to review SOPs and SOGs for responses to domestic-violence situations; meet with command officers to discuss such incidents; and review available resources concerning provider safety.
TOPOFF 3 Coming to CT, NJ
TOPOFF 3—the third WMD terrorism-response exercise in the Top Officials series that last year saw scenarios posed in Seattle and Chicago—will be held next April in Connecticut and New Jersey, the Department of Homeland Security announced in April.
“To make our response system stronger, we have to identify our strengths and weaknesses through challenging scenarios,” Secretary Tom Ridge said in announcing the exercise. “These scenarios…force us to gauge our readiness, test our internal communications and develop and reinforce relationships across all levels of government and the private sector.”
Specific scenarios are presently under development, but are expected to be of “increasing complexity.” The 2003 drill simulated a dirty-bomb explosion in Seattle and a plague release in Chicago.