The Unwired Medic

Teaching EMS providers & other public safety pros about using mobile tech to improve their practice, patient care, continuing education, scene safety, general entertainment, & productivity.

Who’s Packing Your Parachute?


I read an article today in the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) magazine about “Life’s Parachutes”, a story about Charles Plumb, a Naval Fighter Pilot shot down over Vietnam and was subsequently a POW for six years. Plumb was back in the US dining with his wife at a restaurant when a man walked up to him and said, “You’re Plumb. You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down.” The man who approached Plumb said he packed Plumb’s parachute. You can imagine Plumb’s gratitude.


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This story made me think of how we often take our vehicle stock techs and maintenance staff for granted. They’re packing our parachutes every day so we can go out on our missions to provide EMS to the communities we serve. Their ability to do their jobs correctly and completely ensure we aren’t doing a disservice to our communities or putting us at liability for abandonment or failure to provide adequate care to our patients.

I had a significant problem with some supply techs at a previous employer, and was burned a few times, having LSB’s with incomplete straps (when it was still acceptable to use them for all manner of trauma patients), missing a pedi BVM from the cabinet on a traumatic arrest peds (I had my second in the peds bag, but that cost me time to ventilation), etc. I worked with the logistics manager for several months to refine the restock process, implementing a QA process and shrink-wrapped bins through a supply-line, and one of the goals was to ensure every unit in the fleet of 43 ambulances was identically configured for consistency. I got a lot of flack from management for leaving the HQ over an hour late every shift for several months (no overtime was allowed so I couldn’t come in early to complete my checks) as I checked every single piece of equipment and inventoried the entire unit, but there were failures and missing items every day. I made a deal that if my unit was perfect every day for two weeks, I would leave on time and perform my checks in the field on my downtime, but not until then as it was my license on the line. No one would come back to a logistics manager or supply tech and tell them they couldn’t practice supplying anymore, but I could be held liable by the state for failures or missing equipment, and I wouldn’t live with causing harm or not being able to help my patient due to a problem. I still opened every single shrink-wrapped bin (much to the chagrin of supply and management) for another two weeks until I was comfortable with results of the new process, but eventually, I didn’t even need to do that anymore. The deal worked and I never had another supply problem at that agency. It took time to trust, but eventually, I trusted my parachute to open every time without fail and it did. I don’t work for the agency anymore, but I still keep in contact with a few of the supply techs and supervisors. They aren’t nameless, faceless, automatons. Many of them would later move on to becoming field providers there or at another agency. I never made friends with the fleet people, but I didn’t cause them any trouble and when I had an issue, they took it seriously and fixed it the best they could, and I’d like to believe it was due to some mutual respect.

Plumb delivers speeches and presentations now and one of his questions to his audience is, “Who’s packing your parachute?”

Read the DAV Magazine article on page 27 of the pdf magazine here:

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