Us, us, us and Them, them, them

EMS providers are a strange breed. Generally, they’re not just good folk, but nice folk as well. This isn’t too surprising to those who may have run with volunteer companies. The people who volunteer are contributing far more than just the personal time they spend running calls. There’s additional training, sometimes as much as a weekend or two a month, both mandatory and elective. There are those nights one is scheduled to run, and those nights where one fills in for a crew member who needs coverage. There are pub-ed functions and special events, county fairs and whatnot, where an ambulance or fire piece is on stand-by, staffed by folks who volunteer additional time to man the units “in place”, just in case.

“Ah, what a fine bunch, truly a selfless breed,” I hear you say. And you’re right. Most fire/EMS companies like to think of themselves as “families”; with all that time spent together, one truly comes to believe one may count on his “EMS Bruthuz” both in the field and in personal situations.

However, All Is Not Sunshine, because at the bottom of it all EMS folk are people.

Take for example one fire station, the denizens of which we shall label the “Hatfields”. The Hatfields are hardworking, hard-playing, fun-loving folk who live to serve, and can count on other Hatfields to shore up an unstable vehicle at an auto wreck, cover their backs at a fire, or lend them five bucks ’til Friday. They enjoy being at the station and providing community service.

Contrast them to another fire station, a mile or so down the road, perhaps even in the same county, but “separate” – we shall call them “McCoy”. The McCoys are hardworking, hard-playing, fun-loving folk who live to serve, and can count on other McCoys to shore up an unstable vehicle at an auto wreck, cover their backs at a fire, or lend them five bucks ’til Friday. They enjoy being at the station and providing community service.

And yet, one may have come to the conclusion (based on the carefully selected names) that perhaps the “Hatfields” and the “McCoys” just don’t seem to get along too well. If the McCoys get a good fire, one can just bet that the Hatfields are all over the details – which units responded, where they parked, how they set up their hose lines, how the fire was knocked down – and looking for mistakes. “Know what those dumb McCoys did?” a Hatfield will ask, and proceed to tell about it, for it is always true that if one looks hard enough, a mistake can be found.

This “one-upsmanship” is universal. It is prevalent in every state, county, city, and local EMS system. Heck, it’s not even confined to EMS at all. Army troupers in “Easy” company will complain about “Dog” company. According to Heinlein it is a matter of faith in the Marines that Navy ratings don’t wash below the collar-line. “Us” is good, but let me tell you about “Them”…

Perhaps DTs is just a little bit naive when it comes to understanding how unit pride works, for he feels that “I did well” works fine by itself without having to add, “… unlike that other ambulance on the scene. Boy! Lemme tell ya what they did.”

When an event throws Hatfields and McCoys onto the same scene, they will work together quite well: Your patients will be removed from the auto wreck; the fire will be put out. And there will be stories told at the Hatfield station and stories told at the McCoy station, about what “They”, those others, did wrong, stupidly, or inefficiently.

It’s just a people thing, I’m sure. Even a “good” people thing.

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