NY EMS Workers Say Attacks Increasing

06 Mar, 2024 Liz Carey


New York City, NY (WorkersCompensation.com) – New York City’s emergency medical technicians and paramedics say attacks on them have risen substantially in the past twelve years.

According to reports, EMTs and paramedics in the Big Apple were attacked or threatened more than 360 times in 2022, an estimated 2,320 percent increase over the 15 attacks reported in 2011, when the agency began keeping records.

The increased attacks, and the death of a paramedic in 2022, has the emergency responders searching for answers and protection, officials with the Local 2507 of District Council 37, the union that represents the more than 4,000 EMTs and paramedic said. Between 2018 and 2021, assaults and attacks on EMS workers more than doubled from 163 to 386.

“The morale is extremely low,” Oren Barzilay, Local 2507 president said. “Our members are continuously under attack but our call volume is reaching record highs.”

According to reports, EMTs and paramedics were punched 46 times, bitten 45 times, kicked 35 times and threatened with knives 23 times. Other reports included being stabbed with a needle and head-butted, as well as more than 60 incidents of being spit on. Three medics reported being sexually assaulted or harassed, including one EMT who said a patient she was treating called her “sexy,” rubbed her leg and grabbed her buttocks.

In September 2022, FDNY Capt. Alison Russo-Elling, a 62-year-old grandmother and paramedic was stabbed to death in a random and unprovoked attack while on duty. Russo-Elling was waiting for roadside assistance to come and repair her FDNY vehicle. As she waited, a civilian told her that person nearby was having a medical emergency. When she went to investigate, her attacker walked up to her, and stabbed her multiple times in the neck and chest. She was rushed to a nearby hospital, but died of her injuries shortly thereafter.

“Members of EMS serve only to help and save other people’s live,” Acting Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said. “To be attacked and killed in the course of helping others is both heartbreaking and enraging for our department in ways I cannot describe.”

In 2017, EMT Yadira Arroyo was killed when her ambulance was stolen and then was used to run over her.

City firefighters and fire officials said the threats against them have risen as well, but reports indicate that EMS workers are 12 times more likely to be attacked on the job than firefighters. The number of incidents in 2022 is still 6 percent lower than the 386 reported in 2021.

Barzilay blamed the increase in attacks on soft-on-crime policies passed by state lawmakers, and prosecutors unwilling to put criminals behind bars.

“Everybody knows that in New York State – especially New York City – you can literally get away with murder these days, and it’s affecting our members,” Barzilay told the New York Post.

In February, New York’s City Council introduced bills aimed at protecting the city’s emergency medical services workers by guaranteeing first responders access to body armor and yearly self-defense training. The bills were introduced last year, officials said, but stalled in committee.

One measure would make it a requirement for the Fire Department to provide workers with bullet- and stab-proof vests. The other would require yearly self-defense and de-escalation training.

“Every day, FDNY EMTs put themselves in harm’s way to save New Yorkers lives, constantly facing the danger of being attacked themselves,” Council Minority Leader Joseph Borelli (R-Staten Island) told The Post. “Providing them with the tools to protect themselves is the least we can do to say, ‘thank you.'”

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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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