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Why Don't Paramedics Run to Emergency Patients?

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Why don't paramedics run to emergency patients?

Ross Cohen:

I’m glad you asked, because I promise you it’s not due to a lack of concern. It’s actually perfectly logical when you see it from our point of view …

3 MAIN REASONS

  1. Running is risky. If we trip, fall, [and] get hurt—now there’s two patients.
  2. Running to a patient prevents us from spotting hazards on the way in. Remember, we’re walking into an unknown. We must carefully observe and assess for danger. On the walk in, we’ll notice the downed power lines, the room full of people passed out from a gas leak, the dog protecting its injured owner, the hoarder’s junk on the floor when we round the corner, the attacker who assaulted the victim, the weapon lying next to the bystander, etc.
  3. Running makes it harder to keep our cool and operate at peak effectiveness. We need to be the calmest person in the room. Everyone takes their cues from us. We need to think clearly and act deliberately, decisively, expeditiously, [and] smoothly. It’s hard to do that if your own heart is beating out of your chest, you’re breathing heavily, and visibly excited. It takes mental discipline to restrain our own excitement and concern to work professionally and unemotionally in scary situations and adding significant physical exertion to an already stressful situation is not helpful.

5 LESSER REASONS

  1. If the patient sees us running toward them, they may become even more distressed. Our demeanor can be either a calming or aggravating influence.
  2. We’re carrying equipment: stretchers, chairs, oversized bags, expensive EKG monitors, etc. Some of these things we can barely walk with, let alone run.
  3. It doesn’t actually save much time. If we parked far away, which is rare, we’ll be quite out of breath running a long distance with our equipment and have that much more opportunity to get hurt. If we parked close by as we usually do, we might shave at most a few seconds off our arrival time, which would not matter in 99.99 percent of cases.
  4. If you run on every call of every shift, across every street, down every driveway, up every flight of stairs, through every hallway … it’s just a matter of time before you twist an ankle, bang a knee, split a lip, fall down stairs, etc. I’ve known many EMTs who have gotten hurt and/or split their pants or something and that’s without running. We’re not professional athletes in tip top shape; injuries happen enough as it is and running would only add to it.
  5. We work on highways and highrises. We work in backyards and backwoods. We’re in people’s messy bedrooms and cramped basements. We climb stairwells and traverse steep inclines. We work in the rain, the heat, the cold, and everything in between. Running just makes all these things harder.

Those are some of the reasons we don’t run. The only real reason to run is that people would stop assuming a lack of urgency/concern when we merely walk briskly toward them. Trust us, it’s way better for all involved if we avoid running.

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Big Questions
What Does the Sergeant at Arms Do?
House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Donald Trump arrive for a meeting with the House Republican conference.
House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Donald Trump arrive for a meeting with the House Republican conference.
Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

In 1981, shortly after Howard Liebengood was elected the 27th Sergeant at Arms of the United States Senate, he realized he had no idea how to address incoming president-elect Ronald Reagan on a visit. “The thought struck me that I didn't know what to call the President-elect,'' Liebengood told The New York Times in November of that year. ''Do you call him 'President-elect,' 'Governor,' or what?” (He went with “Sir.”)

It would not be the first—or last—time someone wondered what, exactly, a Sergeant at Arms (SAA) should be doing. Both the House and the Senate have their own Sergeant at Arms, and their visibility is highest during the State of the Union address. For Donald Trump’s State of the Union on January 30, the 40th Senate SAA, Frank Larkin, will escort the senators to the House Chamber, while the 36th House of Representatives SAA, Paul Irving, will introduce the president (“Mister [or Madam] Speaker, the President of the United States!”). But the job's responsibilities extend far beyond being an emcee.

The Sergeants at Arms are also their respective houses’ chief law enforcement officers. Obliging law enforcement duties means supervising their respective wings of the Capitol and making sure security is tight. The SAA has the authority to find and retrieve errant senators and representatives, to arrest or detain anyone causing disruptions (even for crimes such as bribing representatives), and to control who accesses chambers.

In a sense, they act as the government’s bouncers.

Sergeant at Arms Frank Larkin escorts China's president Xi Jinping
Senat Sergeant at Arms Frank Larkin (L) escorts China's president Xi Jinping during a visit to Capitol Hill.
Astrid Riecken, Getty Images

This is not a ceremonial task. In 1988, Senate SAA Henry Giugni led a posse of Capitol police to find, arrest, and corral Republicans missing for a Senate vote. One of them, Republican Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon, had to be carried to the Senate floor to break the filibustering over a vote on senatorial campaign finance reform.

While manhandling wayward politicians sounds fun, it’s more likely the SAAs will be spending their time on administrative tasks. As protocol officer, visits to Congress by the president or other dignitaries have to be coordinated and escorts provided; as executive officer, they provide assistance to their houses of Congress, with the Senate SAA assisting Senate offices with computers, furniture, mail processing, and other logistical support. The two SAAs also alternate serving as chairman of the Capitol Police board.

Perhaps a better question than asking what they do is pondering how they have time to do it all.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What Makes a Cat's Tail Puff Up When It's Scared?
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Cats wear their emotions on their tails, not their sleeves. They tap their fluffy rear appendages during relaxing naps, thrash them while tense, and hold them stiff and aloft when they’re feeling aggressive, among other behaviors. And in some scary situations (like, say, being surprised by a cucumber), a cat’s tail will actually expand, puffing up to nearly twice its volume as its owner hisses, arches its back, and flattens its ears. What does a super-sized tail signify, and how does it occur naturally without help from hairspray?

Cats with puffed tails are “basically trying to make themselves look as big as possible, and that’s because they detect a threat in the environment," Dr. Mikel Delgado, a certified cat behavior consultant who studied animal behavior and human-pet relationships as a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, tells Mental Floss. The “threat” in question can be as major as an approaching dog or as minor as an unexpected noise. Even if a cat isn't technically in any real danger, it's still biologically wired to spring to the offensive at a moment’s notice, as it's "not quite at the top of the food chain,” Delgado says. And a big tail is reflexive feline body language for “I’m big and scary, and you wouldn't want to mess with me,” she adds.

A cat’s tail puffs when muscles in its skin (where the hair base is) contract in response to hormone signals from the stress/fight or flight system, or sympathetic nervous system. Occasionally, the hairs on a cat’s back will also puff up along with the tail. That said, not all cats swell up when a startling situation strikes. “I’ve seen some cats that seem unflappable, and they never get poofed up,” Delgado says. “My cats get puffed up pretty easily.”

In addition to cats, other animals also experience piloerection, as this phenomenon is technically called. For example, “some birds puff up when they're encountering an enemy or a threat,” Delgado says. “I think it is a universal response among animals to try to get themselves out of a [potentially dangerous] situation. Really, the idea is that you don't have to fight because if you fight, you might lose an ear or you might get an injury that could be fatal. For most animals, they’re trying to figure out how to scare another animal off without actually going fisticuffs.” In other words, hiss softly, but carry a big tail.

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