Legislature(1997 - 1998)
04/16/1997 09:07 AM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 164 AUTHORITY OF EMERGENCY MED TECHS Number 001 CHAIRMAN WILKEN called the Senate Health, Education & Social Services Committee (HES) to order at 9:07 a.m. and introduced SB 164 as the first order of business before the committee. BETH HAGEVIG , Staff to Senator Wilken, read the following Sponsor Statement into the record: Senate Bill 164 repairs a long overdue shortcoming in our public safety network. Specifically, it provides EMTs with appropriate and relevant authority at the scene of an accident as well as during responses to medical emergencies in homes, without creating potential conflict between emergency personnel. SB 164 is intended to protect EMTs who arrive first on the scene of an accident or medical emergency, or who are the only emergency responders to arrive for some time, as is the case in many rural areas. Currently, we ask emergency medical technicians to perform actions necessary to their duties such as: *controlling and directing activities at the scene of an accident; *temporarily blocking or redirecting traffic to avoid the scene of an accident; *trespassing upon property in order to respond to an emergency call; *entering a building, including a private residence, or premises where report of an injury or illness has taken place; and *directing the removal or destruction of a motor vehicle or other thing in order to prevent further harm to injured or ill individuals; without giving them the proper legal authority to do so. By taking for granted that EMTs are expected to perform these duties in the absence of any legal authority, we leave hundreds of men and women vulnerable to the lack of cooperation on the part of the public and potential liable suits. Alaska relies heavily on its emergency medical personnel, especially in rural areas where law enforcement and fire personnel are relatively few in numbers. Just as we expect EMTs to protect our safety in an emergency situation, we should reciprocate this service, and give EMTs the proper legal authority to do their jobs without compromising their personal safety. CHAIRMAN WILKEN referred the committee to the information in the packet which detailed the levels of EMTs in Alaska. BETH HAGEVIG noted that ETTs although listed with the levels of EMTs, are not technically EMTs. Number 094 CRAIG LEWIS , Alaska EMS Association and Interior Region Emergency Medical Services Council Inc., urged the support of SB 164. Mr. Lewis believed that the committee packet included documents regarding cases in other states where EMTs without this authority were injured and held liable after the fact. The EMTs in rural settings perform those duties listed. Mr. Lewis noted that customarily there is a responsible person in charge, sometimes called the Chief Medic. SB 164 does not compromise nor conflict with any existing law enforcement or fire fighting authority. SB 164 provides legal protection for EMTs responding in locations where the trooper response is delayed or there are no volunteer fire fighters to assume the role. SENATOR GREEN referred to line 14 on page 1 when noting that during the Millers Reach fire lots of people began directing traffic without consistent identification that resulted in fist to cuffs and later arrests. In SB 164, what provides consistent identification of those in authority? CRAIG LEWIS pointed out that SB 164 is not designed to deal with a wild land fire circumstance as in Millers Reach. Mr. Lewis believed the bill to address motor vehicle accidents or illnesses in homes. The majority of EMTs are in uniform or wear some sort of patch. CHAIRMAN WILKEN did not want just anyone to claim to be an EMT and end up directing traffic. Should SB 164 contain language indicating the need for EMTs to carry identification or wear a uniform in order to know that the person is truly an EMT if challenged? CRAIG LEWIS acknowledged that the involvement of bystanders and the question of challenging of the EMTs is complicated. The EMTs have credentials and cards which explain the certification as well as uniforms. EMTs are trained in dealing with the public. The definitions and standards defining an EMT seem to already address the issue of identification. Number 213 ELLEN WOFFORD , EMT-III with Delta Rescue Squad, supported SB 164. Many EMTs are volunteers and therefore may come upon a scene and not be in the uniform, but do carry badges and perhaps have a hat indicating the person's EMT status. TOM DEAN , Chief of the Tok EMS, believed he was sort of responsible for this legislation because he questioned whether Alaskan EMTs had authority after reading an article discussing a similar situation in another state. SB 164 addresses what is done on a regular basis by EMTs. Mr. Dean noted that in his area, EMTs often arrive 30 minutes to an hour before troopers at motor vehicle accidents. SB 164 merely gives authority to EMTs to do what they are already doing. Mr. Dean encouraged the passage of SB 164. MARK JOHNSON , Chief of the Section of Community Health & Emergency Medical Services in DHSS, informed the committee that the Section of Community Health & Emergency Medical Services was responsible for planning, coordinating, and implementing a statewide emergency medical services system which includes the certification of all EMTs and ambulance services. With regard to ETTs, those persons are not equivalent to EMTs. ETTs, first responders, would not be covered under this statute. Mr. Johnson explained that if someone is certified by his section then, that person would receive a certificate, a wallet card, and patches. Mr. Johnson supported SB 164. CHAIRMAN WILKEN inquired as to the number of people involved from the EMT-I level to MICP. MARK JOHNSON stated that approximately 4,000 people are certified statewide. Number 295 SENATOR WARD asked if SB 164 was enacted, would Martin Buser be sent to jail if during an emergency situation an EMT told him not to go home and he did. BETH HAGEVIG said that she would have to confer with legal on that issue. Placing EMTs as enforcers was not the intent of this legislation; the intent was to give EMTs the authority to do what they are already doing. In general when EMTs arrive on the scene, the EMTs rely on law enforcement to perform enforcement duties. SENATOR WARD restated his question. BETH HAGEVIG noted that SB 16 was modeled after the fire fighter authority legislation in which there is a penalty if a fire fighter's instructions are disobeyed. Ms. Hagevig reiterated that she would need to confer with an attorney on this matter. MARK JOHNSON believed that there was no enforcement authority with SB 164. The reason for SB 164 is to protect EMTs; most EMTs do not want enforcement authority. Mr. Johnson also deferred to legal advice. SENATOR GREEN believed Mr. Johnson, but noted that during an ongoing emergency the functions between the various responding groups can become blurred. This legislation may not be the proper place to address this issue, the ability to deputize. Senator Green referred to lines 3 and 4 on page 2; is that a typical standard? MARK JOHNSON believed that if EMS receives a call then that gives EMS reasonable authority to enter on the basis of that call. This simply clarifies that. BETH HAGEVIG reiterated that SB 164 was drafted almost verbatim from the fire fighter authority legislation. In response to Senator Ward, CRAIG LEWIS reiterated that the intent of SB 164 was to provide authority not enforcement. In general, persons who violate statutes are penalized and if SB 164 becomes law then the penalties relevant to that would apply. There is a $1,000 fine for failing to comply with a fire fighter's instructions which is specifically stated in that legislation. That is not stated in SB 164. Number 383 SENATOR WARD asked if all persons covered under SB 164 were required to carry photo identification. CRAIG LEWIS said no, although most have a card issued by the state which identifies the person and level of skill. MARK JOHNSON also replied no to Senator Ward's inquiry. SENATOR WARD noted that police officers are not always in uniform, but do have identification beyond a badge, a cap, or a patch. TOM DEAN reiterated that in the Millers Reach fire, EMTs would not be in control in such a major fire. SENATOR WARD informed everyone of another situation in which a person with identification took control of an emergency situation and instructed those present to move away from the victim. Unbeknownst to the EMT person, one of the bystanders was a relative. Without the proper identification, the situation could have been very difficult. TOM DEAN assumed that there was a reason that there were instructions to separate the people from the victim. CHAIRMAN WILKEN redirected the conversation to the question of identification. MARK JOHNSON reiterated that all the certified EMTs are issued a wallet card, patches and a certificate. CHAIRMAN WILKEN asked if adding language requiring that the EMT certification card be carried, which is not a photo identification, would address the identification concerns. SENATOR WARD suggested that a specific background or designation on the person's drivers license could be utilized to signify their EMT status. MARK JOHNSON deferred to the DMV, but did note that SB 38 would require, in addition to the organ donor specification, a Do Not Resuscitate order as well. If SB 38 passes, that is a lot of information on the drivers license. CHAIRMAN WILKEN suggested that SB 164 be held to work on this matter. SB 164 was held to Friday's agenda.