Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

Bad Recipe for EMS Event Laughter


EduMedic has a post about making public relations more entertaining, but he seems to be entertaining his crews and only scaring the children.

He creates a game of Russian Roulette with each child holding a wire connected to the defibrillator and the appearance of the defibrillator delivering a shock through only one of the wires.

No shock will be delivered to anyone, but the children do not know this. The children are told the opposite.

The defibrillator is charged. Capacitor whining until it stops. Dramatic tension for the children.

The defibrillator is discharged. Since everyone is only ECG leads, nobody is shocked, but the presenter is supposed to give the appearance of having been shocked.

9. Immediately scream in agony, drop your limb lead, and run/jump/cry as you feel is appropriate to convey that you were “shocked.”

10. After catching your breath, thank them for being brave and invite them to bring their friends back for additional demonstrations on the half-hour for the duration of the event. With their full attention at your disposal, it is also the ideal time to discuss relevant public safety messages for your organization.

11. Repeat procedure for the rest of the day, or as long as you can keep a straight face.[1]


Look at the picture that accompanies this. The medics are laughing, but the children are not.

This could be a set up for explaining to children the dangers of playing with a defibrillator/AED (Automated External Defibrillator), or any other electrical device.

This could be justified as a way of teaching children about the dangers of electric current, or the benefits of electricity when used appropriately. This could be used for explaining that everything has risks, no matter how beneficial it might be.

I do not see any reason for not explaining that nobody was shocked, but nowhere is that suggested. Nowhere in the responses to my comments is that suggested.

What is provided is a series of logical fallacies.


Ahh, mounting opposition for anything in EMS that isn’t evidenced-based. True to form for you, Rogue![1]


Nowhere did I criticize this for not being evidence-based.

Logical fallacies have to do with confusion, misdirection, deceit, . . . , but not with anything good.[2] This is just one of many logical fallacies that will be used by EduMedic in his responses to my comments.

“You do not appear to have provided them with any education to justify this.”

1. Re-read the title post. It’s a recipe for laughter. The kids laugh, parents laugh, we laugh. Laughter needs no justification.

2. After this demonstration, I have their undivided attention because they had fun. This is when we talk about what EMS personnel do for the sick & injured and when to call 911.[1]

The bold type is EduMedic’s.


We have laughter.

The video shows a way to produce laughter. Nobody really had their fingers cut off. Should we be teaching children to laugh at the misfortune of others?

Laughter needs no justification, because nervous laughter is the same as amusement?


Nervous laughter is a physical reaction to stress, tension, confusion, or anxiety. Neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran states “We have nervous laughter because we want to make ourselves think what horrible thing we encountered isn’t really as horrible as it appears, something we want to believe.”[3]


Having the opportunity to talk to the children afterward is important.

Explaining the difference between a real danger and this fake electrocution is more important. Where does he explain, or even suggest explaining that the electrocution was not real?

“You do appear to have taught them that EMS encourages taking unreasonable risks.”

1. At no time is there any risk to anyone involved, only the suggestion of it for the sake of teaching. The same thing is done routinely in HazMat Technician classes with adult students when jars of colored water are presented to the students as something highly toxic. Suddenly the presenter has their full attention.

2. The teachable moment occurs when they quickly realize that there really was no shock. I have yet to see a group of children fail to realize it was purely theatrical. It is at THAT moment when they smile, they laugh, and their minds are open to a new idea… that ambulances and the paramedics on them are not scary after all.[1]


Nowhere did I suggest that there was a real risk of shock. My objection has been to the lack of explanation to the children.

Even in adult education, we should tell the students that there was no actual dangerous chemical in the container. Otherwise, we are suggesting that the chemicals are safe enough to keep in a classroom.

Where is there any suggestion that it should be made clear to the children that there was no real risk at any time?

I’m really trying to understand your preoccupation with the disclosure of an imaginary risk. Remember the context of most any public safety PR event. Law enforcement typically comes with a buckle-up “convincer” or a talking DARE car. However, there are no multi-page waivers to sign prior to riding the convincer, nor are there counselors on hand to debrief children who may have been frightened by an unoccupied vehicle that suddenly comes to life.[1]


Even more logical fallacies, but they don’t end there.

EduMedic provides clear statement that he does not understand that children do not look at the world the same way adults do.

Should we teach children to take risks, but not teach them the difference between real risk and pretend risk?

By the way, the D.A.R.E. program is an example of a myth. D.A.R.E. has been shown to have the opposite effect of what is intended. I would provide evidence, but EduMedic might claim that by citing research I was justifying some of his use of logical fallacies.

A large part of education is about perception.

We are trying to change the way students perceive the world.

Being vague, or omitting information, is not good education. These may be good reasons there are so many myths for me to debunk.


[1] Photo Phriday: Recipe for PR Event Laughter
May 3, 2013 9:00 am
Brian Lilley
Article and comments

[2] Fallacy

[3] Nervous laughter



  1. […] “…he seems to be entertaining his crews and only scaring the children.”   Tim Noonan, aka Rogue Medic Blog Post on May 7, 2013. […]