The Heroes of EMS


EMS services loading an injured fighter into the ambulance.

Photo by Sean Screamach


By Ana Sarasdottir Features Reporter,PI


If you’ve been at War for more than a few minutes, you’ve probably seen them. Yes, them. Those neon green shirts popping up like beacons of all that is modern. They’re spotted on golf carts, chatting with people, and keeping careful watch over the battlefield. They’ve even been posting on the Pennsic War Facebook page. I’m talking about the heroes of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) crews of both Ross-West View and Allegheny Health Network. The combined EMS crew provides emergency and non-emergency medical care, medical transportation, Basic Life Support, and even Advanced Life Support; and they do it all with professionalism and an energetic spirit.

I recently spent some time with Scott Garing, Incident Commander for the EMS station, to get a better understanding of what goes into getting ready for an event like Pennsic. “Months of planning,” he told me. “We had weekly meetings on the process of providing EMS services for an event this size. We like to be over-prepared because we believe in giving the best possible care. We are coupled with AHN to provide physicians for response medics and for responding on scene. This is the first year Ross-West View has been contracted by the SCA for this event, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The people here make us feel so welcome, it’s been a wonderful experience.”

Garing also shared his thoughts on Pennsic as whole. “The people – the culture is just amazing. We’ve met so many fantastic individuals. The logistics of organizing something like this… it’s astounding. A week ago, this was just open field and now it’s a city – an actual city. That’s incredible. I’ve been thanked more in the last week than in many years of EMS service. Everyone has made us feel so welcome.”

I spoke with other new EMS crew members to get their initial impressions of War. Some were surprised by the scope of the battlefield, others by the intensity. Everyone I spoke to was in awe of how appreciative we are. Kindness, consideration, and gratitude were the running themes of every conversation.

Dr. Stephanie Carlson told me she was worried about standing out with the obviously modern radios and bright neon shirts. “You know, getting food in the market area. I didn’t want to disturb that environment or ruin it for people. We’re not going to classes and stuff like that; that isn’t for us, but I didn’t want to break up the scene for people.” Overall, though, Dr. Carlson told me she feels very welcome and it hasn’t been a big deal. Everyone she’s met has been very supportive of EMS being a presence around War and many have stopped to thank her for doing great work. Dr. Carlson also mentioned that her grandparents are from Sweden, so it was a pleasant surprise when she passed by Norseland recently and recognized a familiar sight. “Hey! I know those runes!” She laughed.

Community Paramedic Chip Franklin was taken aback by the scope of War. “I had this idea in my mind about how big it would be, but this isn’t like I imagined. No, not at all. This is so much bigger.” The other surprise: devotion to persona. “The realism even with those who are injured. I treated an injured lady who didn’t break character the entire time I treated her. That could be a bad thing depending on the situation, but it was interesting.”

Nick McWilliams, positioned on the battlefield during the Field Battle, told me he was surprised by how hard the fighters hit each other. “It’s really loud. The noise of the weapons hitting armor… it’s unexpected.” McWilliams is in his second year of EMS service, but this is his first War. He told me he is impressed by the battle and wants to come back next year but only as an observer. “I like being on the sideline, watching the fighting. It’s a really cool thing to see.”

Every EMS crew told me they appreciate the positivity. They’ve been welcomed into the fold in a way they never expected. Even though they’ve heard it many times over, tell them once more. If you’re around and see one of the EMS crew, stop and say hi. Thank them for looking out for our fighters and making sure we have a safe and healthy War. After all, it’s true that not all heroes wear capes. Ours wear neon green shirts.