How do you handle arriving to a scene where a person is either DOA or seconds from it? 


I have been on three calls where the person was DOA or just about.


1.  Elderly family member passed away in his sleep. 

2.  Suicide - GS to the head

3.  Car accident - One of the drivers was playing with her cell phone, started to go off the road, over corrected and slammed head on into the oncoming car.



I appreciate the feedback.


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Honestly I dont believe there is no easy way to deal with that kinda thing... i kno that i have seen one DOA an it was a heart attack but nothing more since i been in the fire service... now i seen alot when i was younger such as car accidents but thats about it an all i could was jus stand an fell so sorry for there family an it only reminded me of who thankful i was to have the family an friends that i did have... its hard to watch a family go thur that or hear the screams of others family members exspecially when there is nothing that we can do... my instructure says that certain things in life can be replaced but we as firefighters can not that is why he preachs to us so much about the safties of us.... i kno we cant always save someones family but we can try an tryin is about the best that we can do so if you still want to talk then im here to talk to byes!!!
Thank you Falisha. I wonder if people ever become numb to the sights.
One thing to consider is that in some cases the death may create more patients for you to care for. Family members take the death of a loved one hard, and may not be able to cope causing them to have panic attacks, hyperventilate or go into shock. Make sure you check on and care for them as best that you can. In the case ofthe suicide it can be hard, but also remember that it is now a crime scene and the less people in the scene the better for the leo's. If you are having trouble dealing with these situations, talk about it with fellow firefighters or your officers.

After my first DOA I spent about an hour talking with the other EMT asking questions. I can understand a sick/elderly person passing away I have dealt with that numerous times before when I worked in the nursing homes. I have a harder time with the suicides.
If your department has a chaplain they may be willing to help you to attend to patients spiritually rather than physically when they are on the verge of death. In the Anglican Catholic (me), Roman Catholic and Lutheran traditions there are specific prayers for use in these situations whether the patient is conscious or not.

A lot also depends on what your faith is (or if you espouse any faith).

Irrespective I would recommend contacting Christ in Action @ for their ICNSF certified crisis intervention training. If you are an athiest or agnostic a small part of the lecture material will be without meaning to you; however, there is always a need for team members trained in the fundamentals of dealing with victims (and fellow firefighters) in crisis situations.

I will also help you if you wish. Please feel free to send me an off-line email at with the subject line ATTN: FIRE CHAPLAIN ADVICE ... so I won't miss your message.

The Rev'd William C. Fleenor, FSSM
Chesterfield (VA) Fire & EMS


I think a lot of this has to do with how you view death. Me personally. I have been dealing with death of family and friends far more often than I would like. But, Over the years my view has changed and I can't say its easier to deal with. just that i have improved in how I deal with it. 

I believe that when God decides its your time to go. Be it by Self infliction, fire,  MVC or what ever of the million ways to die. you are going to die at that time. don't matter what I or anyone else does. when its your time to go. your going. Accidents happen. people survive because death missed by an inch or less. the inch was to the right and the best friend dies. Why. because it was not your time yet. But it was your friends. I believe that if a suicide is not supposed to happen. god will lead someone to the door to interrupt that act before it can take place and the interruption could be just what it takes to prevent. or if that persons time is up. it will happen uninterrupted.

We can not prevent what happens. only try to educate and act properly if it does happen. We did not cause the fire. we did not pull the trigger, we can not replace the heart that is tired and worn out. we cannot repair the damage people do to their bodies from years of abuse. We can only do our best and be there for the rest.
Several years ago. When I was in FF I&II  Just before test day. My brother was found in his living room with a SIGW to the head. I know god prevented it several times prior to this day by interrupting the intent. But, this time god let it happen. I believe god wanted him with my parents. Its hard to lose your closest brother. I loved him and still do. I understand the issues he had and I have come to grips with it. anyway. This was on wednesday that he was found, the following Saturday we got a  rescue call, rescue called for fire assistance because the down and not breathing person was over 300 lbs. I helped drag the pt out of a small bathroom so the pt could be worked on. The pt didn't make it. that was before my brothers funeral. It was hard for me. but, Harder on my son. who was also there to assist. it was much Harder on him than I realized. i hadn't considered he was not really prepared to deal with death like I was. he  regrettably quit the dept. after that. He just stopped trying. Loss of life is hard. but, we can't save them all.

Just go home after and believe. YOU DID ALL YOU COULD DO. no matter what the situation.

BTW, My profile pic. is my brothers flag draped casket. I will never forget.

I hope you find a good way to deal with death. Doing this type of work don't leave you a lot of choice but, to learn to do so.


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