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ALS and BLS Medical Care: Which should I have at my event?

What is the difference between ALS and BLS Medical Care?

In Basic Life Support (BLS) emergencies, a single EMS provider can not deliver optimum care, such as when trying to hold direct pressure on a bleeding wound, while preparing bandages, to stop bleeding. And it becomes impossible to treat multi-system injuries, such as doing chest compression (CPR) while trying to open an airway or control bleeding. In Advanced Life support (ALS) emergencies, a “single” paramedic or ER doctor can not deliver necessary care. It isn’t feasible to start BLS treatment, followed by ALS treatment, that might include; intubation, intravenous infusions, cardiac defibrillation, emergency drug administration and a host of additional ALS treatments, necessary to save a life, with less than two person ALS Teams

Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) provide Basic Life Support, including: bleeding control, splinting, CPR, use of an AED, spinal immobilization, oxygen, and basic airway management, including airway suctioning. They also perform basic evaluations such as checking blood pressure, pulse, lung sounds, respiratory rate, and blood glucose. EMTs provide comfort care, including treating minor wounds, scrapes, blisters, and burns; and they assist paramedics by providing basic life support, to enable paramedics to focus on more advanced treatments.

In addition to the EMT skills above, paramedics carry emergency medicine that can reverse or greatly reduce the effects of anaphylaxis, breathing problems, critically low blood glucose levels, heart attacks, seizures, overdoses. Paramedic treatment can, in many cases of severe medical and traumatic injuries, prevent death. Paramedics provide pain management treatment in the field. Pain management can be crucial to patient condition and outcome, where hospital in-patient care is delayed. Paramedics can also provide full cardiac monitoring and interpretation, including cardiac defibrillation, as well as advanced airway management, including endotracheal intubation and cricotomy. Paramedics provide IV fluid therapy on site, which is necessary for dehydration and patient blood loss. Paramedics can perform advance screening for patients to better determine their condition and the need for further on-site treatment or transportation to the hospital.

Due to the complexity of advanced medical treatment for critical patients, it is advisable to have a team of at least one paramedic and an EMT at your event.

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Decker Williams
Decker Williams
Jan 07, 2020

Thinking about Paramedics Unlimited's (PMU) 42 years since incorporation, we have done many things since Greg Tope (his idea to offer "True" ALS care to Forest Service Firefighters, with a station wagon type ambulance), Glen Hinson, Decker Williams and Pat Rudolph, founded the company with $400 pooled money. PMU has taught 7000 folks CPR, done hundreds of event standbys, Continued Wildland Fire Response in 10 Western States. Adoption of fat tire ALS bikes for parade coverage, and our prize new Rapid Extraction Method (REM).

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