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I work a regular boring software job and do EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) volunteering on the side to feel fulfilled. This past week a coworker was choking and though she was fine, the ambulance someone called took 20 minutes to get to us.

I'd like to propose that I be listed as an emergency contact or something - we're around 75 people in one building, so I could have gotten there in 30 seconds or less. We have desk phones with speed dial buttons, and one of them could go to my desk or cell so I could be alerted quickly.

Some issues I've already thought of/how I'd address them:

  • I don't need to be paid more for this, this is something I'd be happy to volunteer for free.
  • I have a national registry certification, and my manager can speak to my EMT service supervisor for a "reference" if he's concerned about my abilities.
  • I have a full set of basic first aid/CPR equipment and wouldn't need the company to buy anything.
  • My actual work performance is fine, and I don't think this would need to be factored into performance reviews.

Does anyone see a reason why I shouldn't offer this? I'm not hoping to get any career growth or political power out of this, it's just something I want to do to help my coworkers.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Jan 21 at 17:48

11 Answers 11

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Does anyone see a reason why I shouldn't offer this? I'm not hoping to get any career growth or political power out of this, it's just something I want to do to help my coworkers.

It sounds like a wonderful thing to do!

Make sure your certification holds you harmless should something go awry. Or talk with HR and/or your insurance agent about it.

I once worked for a company that offered CPR classes for any employee who wanted to learn. Those of us who did, were listed and expected to help in emergencies if we could.

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    Consult HR? Those are the people who think emergency responders are required to stop, read, and sign NDAs while someone is dying. I wouldn't take their advice on what time it is. As for insurance agents, I guarantee you OP's insurance doesn't provide coverage for his activities as an EMT unless he bought a specific policy to cover that. Also, his certification doesn't hold him harmless at all. It does quite the opposite by raising the standards of care he'll be held to. – Carey Gregory Jan 21 at 16:05
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    I don't know what that document was but you can bet its sole purpose was to protect the company from you. There is no document an EMT can sign that will reduce his liability. If OP responds to an emergency on his own, he will be protected by Good Samaritan laws, which actually provide quite broad protection. But if he responds on behalf of the company, then both he and the company will be held to the standards of his certification, and the company better provide him with all the training and equipment an EMT normally has. This idea will get no further than the company's legal dept. – Carey Gregory Jan 21 at 19:32
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    @CareyGregory really nails the issue. If one works on behalf of a company in a safety role, they become bound by a great many new and complex rules that do not apply to individuals. It's certainly possible and reasonable to work with one's company to enter such a role, but be prepared to go through much more rigorous training and become a defender of the company in potentially unpleasant ways. Do also expect compensation for your service, even if it's unwanted ($500 and a new phone you must carry at all times) or more social (less-likely to be let go during budget downturns). – ti7 Jan 21 at 19:57
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    It depends on the jurisdiction and the work place. Where I live there is a good samaritan law that says you can't be held libel for trying to help someone and my company further encouraged this with first aid trainings and further liability coverage if you were helping someone on their premises.. – Jake Jan 22 at 20:44
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Do not make it official unless it is really official

I think this is a great instinct, and generous of you. I think there may be some unintended consequences.

Do:

  1. If you see someone in need or hear a call for help, by all means jump in and help. Identify yourself as a trained EMT. Same as if you are in a mall or something and see someone in need.

  2. Let the word get around that if someone needs help and someone can get you, that could be a good thing.

However. If you become the company’s official first aide provider, there could be some unintended consequences.

  1. if they call you first, that could delay a call to 911 (emergency services). You don’t have equipment. Everyone should learn where the AED is though. Maybe call 911 and then call you?

  2. Company liability: if they make it official “Call OP” are you going to have a pager/walkie-talkie/dedicated cell phone? If it goes to your desk, what if you stepped away?

  3. Company stupidity: as others have said, this stop the ambulance and check them in is insane. Right now you want to be an option for someone who needs help. Company could in its “wisdom” make it mandatory that people use you. Back to number 2- how to reach you.

  4. Personal liability? Not for your care, but if they call and can’t reach you. “He’s the emergency responder and he wasn’t at his post.” Not sure if this is a legal liability for you.

In any case, if you are known but not official, most of those go away.

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    There is no country tag but depending on location you can be the first aid first responder without any of the legal responsibility you outline. For example, in Germany there is a concept called 'Ersthelfer' literally 'first responder'. Companies are required to have them, the medical knowledge required is much less than an EMT and of course they are legally protected from the issues you spell out. – quarague Jan 20 at 8:09
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    "Delay a call to 911" is probably not a major concern. In practice, it's balanced by the fact that non-trained people can't always decide if calling 911 is appropriate. A trained EMT will know when it's appropriate. – MSalters Jan 20 at 9:25
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    @MSalters IMO delaying an emergency call is a major concern. There are medical emergencies where every minute counts. One thing you learn in every first aid course (I did several with several different instructors and organizations) is to make the emergency call as soon as possible. If you aren't sure whether or not you should, you should. Call them, describe the symptoms and let them decide if it's urgent or not. However, I did those in a country with a 1st world medical care system which won't bill you personally for requesting emergency help. – Philipp Jan 20 at 12:51
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    @quarague in the US also, there are ”good samaritan” laws that protect anyone who stops to help before the official responders arrive. My concern was if the company sets up an expectation that there is a trained first responder on site, then that person needs to be readily available and reachable. If people just know to grab the OP while someone else calls 911, that would be better IMHO. – Damila Jan 20 at 15:06
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    Generally, EMTs would rather you call them and they don't influence the saving of a life, than the other way 'round. @Damila that is the best approach: call 911 and see if your local trained EMT is available. Keep in mind an EMT without a truck full of gear is not the same as an EMT. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 20 at 21:42
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Don't do this too officially. It would enable this unreasonable nonsense by your company.

HR is currently reprimanding someone for letting in the EMTs without signing them in as guests and making them sign an NDA

Where are you? In several states, it is a crime to even interrupt a 911 call. All states and Canadian provinces have laws requiring motorists to give way to first responders and move away from them if passing them. Take this question over to the Legal StackExchange or perhaps the legal advice subreddit as that requirement is likely legally dicey in one way or another.

Even if there is no law preventing first responders from being delayed by nonsense, there could easily be civil liability for the additional health consequences a person suffered from in the delay.

This is one of those cases where I support a CEO sacking an employee on Twitter/ in an all hands email.

Feel free to spread the word that you are an EMT (75 people, so a quick unofficial email to everyone should do) and keep your equipment around and even put up a few posters near AEDs and first aid kits with your number, but don't let your company have you as an official resource beyond being the first response point of contact. Obviously you would help in any emergency situation, but the company shouldn't be brought to the mindset that because they have an on staff EMT, they can reasonably delay the other ones.

The policy needs to change.

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    It should not even take an e-mail to spread the word, just mention your EMT activities casually to a few people. – Patricia Shanahan Jan 20 at 2:56
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    Doing it unofficially can cause problems, where the uninitiated would see the OP's number and call them instead of 911. This should be an official thing with an official memo/email going to everyone what the official procedures are, which include calling emergency services first then calling the OP. But yes, the policy needs to change. – computercarguy Jan 20 at 21:04
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Professional EMTs are in a union. Volunteer EMTs are almost always part of a larger organization. This is a question you should be asking them, whichever one you are part of. They will know the legal implications, and there may well be legal implications.

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I recommend you review with your (EMT organization's) legal dept. about your legal duty of care, moral duty of care, and the Good Samaritan laws in your jurisdiction -- vis-a-vis general instances of being off-duty and seeing someone in distress. It's like gun law; if you own a gun, you have to know the law. Period. If you have rescue skills and genuine competency to use them, you have to know this law, and it needs to be a memory item.

Here's what you really, really, really cannot afford to have happen: a) someone needs your help b) you refuse to help out of fear of legal risk due to lack of understanding of the law c) they die d) you find out you would've been fully protected e) you're haunted by it for the rest of your life.

No thanks. Nip this in the bud.

And then, nip this in the bud.

We also have a lot of weird corporate rules, and HR is currently reprimanding someone for letting in the EMTs without signing them in as guests and making them sign an NDA, so it'll always take a long time to get outside help.

Super secret, huh? Either you work at Black Mesa, in which case they have their own fire department and EMTs trained in chemical, rad, all the the wacky stuff we got into at the place I worked. And when outside ambulances or fire trucks rolled up to the gate, that gate went up and they didn't even have to slow down. (because the gate was apprised of the nature of the emergency). I've seen it.

Or, you work at a place where HR is holding the idiot ball. And they need to get a very, very, very hard correction, tout suite.

I think the place to do that is the Fire Marshal's office and the city attorney. Grab any documentation you can find to show they're disciplining someone for calling an EMT, and leak it to them anonymously. They'll contact the company and put the kibbosh on the behavior. In the meantime, I'd sharpen my resumé and find other work. That means if you are injured, they'll impede your rescuers. Not OK.

SMH. Asking an EMT to take personal liability, yet expecting no personal liability themselves. It'll turn out the other way 'round.

The only case I've heard of impeding emergency services is a steel mill's "fire-truck-proof gates". The mill needed to stop Barney from the town F.D. from charging in and throwing a hose on a metal ladle, which blew the roof off one time. In their defense the steel mill had the best fire department in the county, and trucks were more likely to blast out the steel mill gates than the other way 'round.

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I tend to agree with the other answers telling you why not, but let me play devil's advocate for if you decide to do it anyways

Define the procedure in writing

This is a giant red flag

We also have a lot of weird corporate rules, and HR is currently reprimanding someone for letting in the EMTs without signing them in as guests and making them sign an NDA, so it'll always take a long time to get outside help.

As much as you think it's distracting from your question, it means your company has weak practices and/or has not effectively communicated policy to employees. Let's say you do an emergency tracheostomy (unlikely but not impossible) on someone choking, but that person dies. If you were on an airplane, you'd be protected from liability, but inside your place of work? Any lawyer worth their salt is going to sue both the company and you personally. The company has insurance, lawyers, and deep pockets. My bet is you don't, and lawyers don't work cheap. Worse, you really don't want your company to be able to throw you under the proverbial bus here. "Bob did that on his own! We had nothing to do with it!"

What I would want before agreeing to do this is the following

  1. A fully written procedure that specifies that you are not a substitute for any emergency action. The employee handbook should be amended accordingly

    In the event of a medical emergency, please contact emergency services first (i.e. dialing 911). Additionally, Bob in IT is a certified EMT and should be contacted (if possible). Contacting Bob is not a substitute for calling 911. Here is the procedure for allowing emergency personnel into the building...

  2. A written and signed agreement that means you will be covered in the event of legal action. Mainly, it means their lawyers will represent you, or the company agrees to pay for legal council if you need to retain them separately. In addition, any relevant liability insurance they have should be adjusted to ensure coverage for you as well. As long as you acted in good faith, and were not reckless, both of them should cover any actions that you took to provide medical care.

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Several things you might take into account (I have followed an EMT myself):

  • In my country, there are laws that enforce companies having first aid officers, they should be listed, known publicly and have followed an official EMT training (next to the one you have followed freely), how is the situation in yours?
  • As I stated in my first point, there might be a difference between a free first aid course and one, applicable for the work floor. Be aware of that.
  • Also in my country: the law states that, when somebody has an urgent problem (accident, illness, ...), every person witnessing this should do his/her outmost best to help that person. So, even if you are not on the list of official first aid officers, when a person is in need, you must help that person.

So, as already stated in earlier answers, one of the main questions here is: in which country are you? Please add the corresponding tag to the question in order to get more precise answers.

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  • Similar situation here (neighbour country). The basic "work" first aid courses are quite similar to the ones required for driver's license in terms of content but the employer's insurance asks for and will pay only for courses with their approval. – cbeleites unhappy with SX Jan 22 at 18:40
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The big issue is legal with regards to liability. Once the company acknowledges and makes you a first responder for in house medical emergencies. The company can be held liable if there is an undesirable medical outcome, as you have become a first responder for the company. As a volunteer under good Samaritan laws you will mostly be protected, provided no errors on your part. How ever that does not necessarily apply to your company. The company could be held liable if issues arise from any medical care given. The company should have a legal review before starting any such program, where they could assume a greater risk as well as possible insurance issues.Your heart is in the right place, and if your help is needed it would be welcomed. Similar to on an airline flight when assistance is asked for by the cabin crew and you volunteer your assistance as opposed being a part of the airlines response system. In this litigious society research is needed to protect all parties concerned, prior to entering such arrangements.

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I am not EMT but I did know how to use the AED and when my company first opened their new building, I put myself on a list of people who knew how to use the device and my POC information.

I'm guessing they contacted a layer or insurance company came and looked at things, I'm not sure who came, but eventually they deleted the POC list and instead sent out a notice that if anyone suffered a medical emergency to call 911 first, and if anyone know how to use the AED or other devices to go ahead and use it. Basically the company wanted to remove themselves from any sort of liability.

Now I'm not a lawyer, but from what I got from my company, there's a good samaritan law in nearly every state, and that protects individuals from being sued if they act in good faith during an emergency. However, a company is not protected by this if they provide a medical service and that medical service is rendered incorrectly. But they are protected if they call 911 first and they can say they did everything they could and employees stepped in to help.

With that said, as an EMT, I believe you are protected by your city from any sort of liability when you come out to a call. But if you advertise that you are a medical expert and EMT, you put yourself in a position where you are saying you guarantee help to your company. As such, you put yourself in a position of liability should you not be able to help or unavailable during a crisis.

My thought is you should avoid stating this. Pretty much anything medical related can cause a lot of issues. I believe medical malpractice is one of the top cases in courts and doctors and hospitals pay a fairly large amount in insurance to protect themselves. If you can afford the court bills, then go right ahead and advertise that. Otherwise, I would just help as you see it, as you have the good Samaritan laws to protect yourself.

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Absolutely, make your interest known. If you want someone to be able to tap your skills, communicate this with your supervisor.

I see from your update that you don't want to focus too much on the whole delayed-EMT thing. So let me give you another example that doesn't sound quite so life-threatening. I was hired by a school district to oversee a task of administering tests (taken by the students). The fact that I had an extensive background in IT was irrelevant to my position. But, I did make this known to my supervisor. A couple of times, my skillset was utilized. Never would have happened if I kept my mouth shut.

I didn't get paid any extra. I enjoyed doing it. Maybe I got slightly behind on another task, but then I worked to catch up and got everything done on time and everybody was happy. There were no downsides.

The biggest reason this would be a problem is if you try to set yourself up as an emergency contact, but you don't have your supervisor backing you on this. Then, if there is an emergency, your supervisor might not know that you are unavailable for your normal work. If you spend too much time not doing expected work, some people may be disappointed if you're doing this without pre-approval. But just communicate, and they should be glad to have you as a resource, and with you pre-approved, your back is sufficiently covered.

(I suppose there may also be legal risks if something goes wrong, but I think that is outside of the scope of this question and outside my ability to properly address, so I'm ignoring that aspect other than just briefly recognizing that possibility there. You'll need a separate answer for that.)

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You can certainly bring up your EMT experience with your supervisor but the only way I could see this coming to fruition is if the protocol is:

  1. Call 911
  2. Get a hold of you while waiting for help

If you are not a fully equipped and supported on-premise EMT then it would be unreasonable to exclusively rely on you.

The situation you should aim to avoid is:

  1. Someone is choking
  2. People frantically looking for you
  3. Someone finally remembers that you're out sick today
  4. Oh crap, call 911!

Your role should be nothing more than an advantaged Good Samaritan.

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