‘Spit show’: Attacks on NYC EMS workers are through the roof

‘Spit show’: Attacks on NYC EMS workers are through the roof

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It’s a bloody dangerous — and sometimes revolting job.

New York City’s emergency medical technicians and paramedics were attacked or threatened 363 times in 2022 — including 64 times where a patient spat on them, according to the latest available records obtained by The Post.

The troubling tally is an eye-popping 2,320% higher than the 15 attacks reported on medics in 2011, when the agency began recording attacks.

The New York Post front page following the stabbing death in 2022 of hero FDNY Capt. Alison Russo-Elling, a paramedic. serinc

“The morale is extremely low,” said  Oren Barzilay, president of the Local 2507 of District Council 37, which represents the city’s 4,100 EMTs and paramedics. “Our members are continuously under attack but our call volume is reaching record highs.”

In September 2022, FDNY Capt. Alison Russo-Elling, a decorated paramedic and 62-year-old grandmother, was stabbed to death, but a vast majority of other violent acts against medics that same year went under the radar.

Medics were also punched 46 times, bitten 45 times, kicked 35 times, threatened with knives 23 times and even stabbed with a needle and head-butted, according to internal agency logs documenting the incidents.

Three medics reported being sexually assaulted or harassed — including a female EMT who claimed a Queens patient she tended to on Jan. 7, 2022 called her “sexy,” inappropriately rubbed her leg, and then groped her butt. A police report was filed but there’s no record of an arrest.

In another case, a female paramedic reported a Manhattan man on Aug. 20, 2022 shoved her, screamed expletives and then tried kissing her before fleeing when cops arrived.

Still, the 2022 medic tally is still 6% lower than 386 reported a year earlier.

EMS workers were 12 times more likely to get attacked on the job than firefighters in 2022 despite responding to the same emergencies. William Farrington
Workplace violence incidents targeting NYC EMTs and paramedics increased 2,320% from 2011 to 2022.

Meanwhile, city firefighters and fire officials saw attacks and threats against them double to 30 in 2022, compared to 15 the previous year.

Despite the increase, the smoke-eaters were still 12 times less likely to get attacked on the job than medics, who are also part of the FDNY.

In all, 408 FDNY employees — including mechanics and other civilian staff — reported workplace violence incidents in 2022 – equaling the same total a year earlier, but more than double the 180 reported in 2018. Fifty-eight of the 408 incidents involved FDNY employees or other city workers allegedly making threats or instigating fights.

Barzilay blamed the violence on state lawmakers passing soft-on-crime policies, such as the no-cash bail law, and lefty prosecutors unwilling to put dangerous 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 said.

The FDNY declined to speculate as to why workplace violence incidents against medics are through the roof.

Oren Barzilay, president of the Local 2507 of District Council 37, which represents the city’s 4,100 EMTs and paramedics, said morale amongst members is very low. Natan Dvir

Medics respond in pairs — one driving the ambulance and the other left alone in the back with the patient. The isolated atmosphere leaves EMTS and paramedics more vulnerable to attacks than firefighters, who arrive at the same emergency calls but travel in much larger groups. The union is pushing for an additional medic in each ambulance.

Two-person EMS teams are standard nationwide, and city medics are required to carry radios with alarm call buttons for emergencies, said FDNY spokeswoman Amanda Farinacci, adding medics should contact the NYPD if they don’t feel safe.

EMS workers also have access to bullet proof vests, she added.

The FDNY purchased beige spit hoods in 2019 to give medics after white- and black-colored spit hoods were deemed racist, but the beige hoods were never provided to medics.

“Situational awareness is stressed and practiced time and time again,” she said. “Members are encouraged to take advantage of the many self-defense resources our department offers online as well.”

In 2019, the FDNY initially agreed to provide medics with “spit hoods” to cover problem patients, but the rollout never happened.

City officials determined the white-colored saliva shields on the market looked too much like Ku Klux Klan hoods, and the black-colored spit hoods had racial connotations resembling “blackface.”


There were 363 reported incidents of “workplace violence” experienced by NYC EMTs and paramedics in 2022. The attacks included but were not limited to responders who were:

Punched/Kicked/Struck: 81

Spat on: 64

Getting Bit: 43

Threatened with knife/stabbed: 25

Groped/sexually harassed: 3 

Source: FDNY records


Rich Calder

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