STRENGTH & RESILIENCE
The entire EMS community has been very supportive of the recovering
paramedics. The city insurance case manager has become their advocate
and is now a close friend of Adams, accompanying her to every appointment, asking questions and helping to arrange follow-up appointments.
Nearly two years later, Adams continues to see specialists and will soon
have more surgery. As a result of the injury, the muscles in her face have
become unbalanced and she receives
regular Botox injections to relax the
other muscles. “I don’t want to look
20 years younger!” she jokes.
Adams has worked in Detroit for
most of her adult life. Prior to working
in EMS, she worked for child protective services, assisting in transitioning
children away from abusive environments. She’s used to difficult situations
and isn’t thin-skinned. Her colleagues
have always known her to be a tough,
confident EMT who’s not afraid go to
bat for them.
She remains an employee and
hopes to return to work in some
capacity soon, but doesn’t think she could get back on an ambulance today.
After initially seeking help from several mental health counselors
who couldn’t provide the support she needed, Kelly finally met a psychologist who had experience working with military veterans and now
feels she’s coming to terms with the attack.
THE CITY RESPONDS
When the attack occurred, the city of Detroit was emerging from bankruptcy, and new leadership in the city’s fire department were working on expanding its medical response to include
more fire-based first responders. This resulted in a need for
The attack on Adams and Rojas
was a grim indicator to fire department leadership that we’d entered
a new era, where attacks on first
responders and prehospital emergency
medical providers are distressingly frequent—although many don’t result
in injuries as severe as those Kelly
suffered—and training on violence
against EMS providers is inconsistent in municipalities across the
According to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics, in the healthcare and social
assistance industries, an assault
is the most common source of nonfatal injury or illness requiring days off work. 1
The day of the attack was the first full day of work for Eric Jones, the
city’s new executive fire commissioner. A former Detroit police officer
and attorney, Jones had experience leading departments in the city, but
he had no fire or EMS background.
On the day of the attack, Jones stood at the bedside of the injured
medics feeling angry. “[First responders are] working in some dangerous conditions,” he later explained when asked to recall what he was
thinking that day. “They’re concerned—police officers are concerned,
firefighters are concerned, EMTs are concerned. They’re professionals,
but [the men and women of the Detroit Fire Department and Detroit
EMS] go into some very dangerous situations … and I’m working
aggressively to get them the training and equipment that they need [to
Situational awareness is a key part of EMS training; however, most per-
sonnel haven’t been trained to recognize the cues that precede violence.
There’s little or no formal violence prevention or self-defense training
for EMS providers. Too often violence is perceived as “part of the job”
or something that’s just “expected.”
Within weeks of the attack, the Detroit Fire Department identified
a multipronged training strategy. The first phase included training all
medical responders in a “verbal judo” de-escalation program used by the
Detroit Police Department. By the end of November 2015, all Detroit
EMS personnel were trained.
The next step was identifying a comprehensive violence prevention
and self-defense course. The Defensive Tactics for Escaping, Mitigating
and Surviving (DT4EMS) program was recommended to the department by other agencies that had used it. The goal of the program is to
guide culture change and provide practical, hands-on self-defense training for EMS providers.
Kip Teitsort, the founder of DT4EMS, has worked in both law
enforcement and EMS, and he’s a passionate advocate for safety. He’s Kelly Adams on the day of the attack. Photo courtesy Kelly Adams
Situational awareness is a
key part of EMS training;
however, most personnel
haven’t been trained
to recognize the cues
that precede violence.