HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- When disaster strikes, they're the men and women who jump into action to save lives. But recently, it's been EMS workers who have become the target of attacks.
"EMS providers are being attacked, they're being assaulted," Cabell County EMS Director of Education Marsha Knight said. "We've had providers that have had broken bones. We've had providers that have needed stitches. You're just not sure what you're going to walk into anymore."
Cabell County EMS isn't alone as this issue has become a problem nation-wide. That's why this week, Cabell County EMS workers are learning self-defense tactics they can use while out on a call.
"The numbers are just staggering," DT4EMS Trainer Kip Teitsort said. "As a general rule, it's 52% of EMS providers have been injured due to violence on the job. Mostly it's punches, kicks, spit on, chokes. Everything from broken jaws, broken ribs, broken fingers, bites. This is what the average health care provider faces."
Teitsort teaches paramedics how to escape dangerous scenes by using self-defense tactics. He says that also includes using verbal skills to try to defuse tense situations.
"He's not teaching us anything about fighting," Knight said. "We're not here to fight. We're not trained to fight. We're here to help others. But should we find ourselves in a violent situation, we're working on escape moves and how to just get away and get to a safe zone."
Teitsort says there are 700,000 annual assaults on EMS providers across the country, leaving them pleading to the public.
"We're here to help you," Knight said. "That's our job. We're out there. We're trying to save lives. We're trying to help injured and sick people, and we don't want to be abused."