Assaults on NYC EMS workers spike

The number of attacks on New York City Emergency Medical Services workers more than doubled between 2018 and 2021 — from about 160 attacks to more than 380.

"As I'm helping him out onto the bed, I had my guard down and he just punched me right in my face," FDNY EMT Kelley Gumbs said.

Gumbs said he has been attacked three times by patients in recent years.

"The other unpopular pandemic that's been going on in recent years is the pandemic of mental health," Gumbs said.

Just last week, an EMT was shot in the shoulder by a drunk patient in the back of an ambulance on Staten Island. Thankfully, the EMT survived but the incident demonstrates just how dangerous the job can be.  

FDNY EMS Union Local 2507 represents about 4,000 FDNY EMTs and paramedics. 

"Out of nowhere a punch will come through the window, just sitting there minding their own business or a brick is thrown at them or a BB gun is shot through the window," union president Oren Barzilay said.

The FDNY has released PSAs about the safety issues. In addition, the FDNY said it has trained first responders in self-defense and de-escalation. 

"They're talking about 24 people who got trained in de-escalation — 24 people out of 4,500," Barzilay said.

City Council Member Joann Ariola of Queens chairs the committee that oversees fire and emergency management. She said that tightening bail reform laws and enforcing a state mental health law would help curb the violence because many of the attacks against ambulance workers are committed by people with mental health issues. 

"Someone who is emotionally disturbed, has mental illness or has drug addiction or alcohol addiction, that they can get the right services," Ariola said. "Right now, it seems to be a revolving door."