As a licensed paramedic I attended a recent EMS convention to earn continuing education hours and learn a thing or two. So, after a day in the cadaver lab and another day in the move forward from 12 lead EKGs to 15lead EKGS, it got me to thinking.

Times change and advancements in every field come in leaps and bounds -- from new ways to toast your bread to revelations in quantum physics. This made me think about the rescue profession. We have come a long way from levers to move boulders to where we are today -- or have we?

Hero of Alexandria describes cranes formed from assemblies of pulleys in the first century. Illustrated versions of Hero’s “book on raising heavy weights” show early block and tackle systems.

Twenty centuries later and we still use them today. A little shinier, more color, different metals, but the same thing we used to move the stones of the Pyramids. The basic principles of mechanical advantage have not changed. It remains the very essence of our job as rescue hands. Moving a load whether it is a log or a human is the same thing for the most part.

I have seen a few things change over the years. Different repel devices, belay devices, rope construction and all the hardware and toys a rescue hand could want from every company imaginable. Most of these things develop out of a specific need and are adapted by the companies and inventors responsible. There is a whosit or a whatchamacallit for almost every aspect of rescue.

All of these gizmos work. Some with more effort and attention and others the same as they did in Alexandria in the first century. But how much you carry may be an issue too.

So what does this all have to do with anything? Several important things, to be exact.

First, the basics. No matter how fancy you get or how many books you write basics are what carry you through. Simple ways of doing things generally win out by shear speed verses the complications of systems that require an engineering degree to operate.

Keeping it simple is always the correct course in rescue because at 3 a.m. after the worst shift of your life is when everything goes wrong.

This area is always a huge contention within the rescue community. What works best? Which knot is better than the other? Again, simplicity is the answer. The best knot is the one you can do easiest and make work. It is the knot that takes the least time away from that critical hour that the patient needs above all else. That is why we are there to protect their time that they only have so much of.

Second, practice. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This is the answer to that age old question about knots. You have to put the equipment in your hand to be able to accomplish the basics. We think that once we have ascended to that lofty area of profound rescue knowledge that it will always be there. Well I am here to tell you -- use it or lose it.

If you have a lot of “BUSINESS’ in your area and it keeps you current in your rescue vocation, then great. But if you only see a rope or carabineer once in a blue moon you need more training that the other guys. Too often rescues go bad because someone forgets something critical about the thingamajig so important to making the rescue system work. Without practice you put yourself just moments away from failure and the possibility of hurting or killing your patient.

Three, find somewhere to race or compete. Every one of us is competitive, from the days of hunting mammoths to today. The human mind and body are built for competition. Keep your mind sharp enough to multi task huge amounts of data to come up with the best solution. You can train in sessions or at your local training grounds, even by yourself, but practice.

And last but not least …

Fourth, engage your leadership about the importance of training. So many times budget constraints are not really there. Saving that money for a later date may cost the group more than money. In these days of Go Pro cameras, cell phones with zoom lenses and the public wanting to capture everything for posterity, being skilled at your business is the greatest asset you can have. Training is the only way to achieve that. Don’t get mad if you mess up. On the training field is where mistakes should happen. Find an association that has open enrollment competition. Test your skills. Get upset when you are not perfect. It helps makes us perfect. You may learn something that you might never use until the one day that skill set is called upon.

If you think training is expensive, ask a lawyer what it cost if you are not trained.

So basics are the answer. That and training. And do not forget practice is the answer, not acquiring the latest and greatest toys in the rescue unit’s tool box.

The rest should enhance, not define, your skill set.

Byrd Reed is the rescue team captain at the ExxonMobil facility in Baytown, TX.