Prospective field study of violence in emergency medical services calls

Ann Emerg Med. 1998 Jul;32(1):33-6. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(98)70096-4.


Study objective: To investigate the nature and frequency of violence encountered by EMS personnel.

Design: We conducted a prospective, observational case-series study of a city-county EMS system serving a population of 500,000.

Results: We analyzed 297 EMS runs over 737 hours of observation. The Overt Aggression Scale (OAS) was used to assess each violent episode. There were 239 (81%) nonviolent runs, 16 (5%) violent runs, and 42 (14%) violent runs that occurred after a violent episode had taken place (postviolent runs). This was a frequency of one violent episode for every four 12-hour shifts, or for every 19 runs. The violent behaviors included verbal aggression solely in 50% (n = 8), physical aggression solely in 13% (n = 2), and both verbal and physical aggression in 38% (n = 6). One episode involved an unsecured weapon.

Conclusion: These data indicate that violent situations occur in 5% of calls in this EMS system. The fact that an additional 14% of calls are precipitated by the results of violence may influence perceptions by EMS personnel of danger and frequency of exposure to unstable situations. Exposure to violence is underreported in our EMS documentation.

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Medical Technicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tennessee / epidemiology
  • Urban Population
  • Violence / classification
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*