Many disaster plans are based on the presence of a physician at the scene to perform triage. This requirement originated when there were no trained paramedical personnel in the field and may actually delay care in rural areas where a physician may not be readily available or may be the only physician at the hospital.
It is our hypothesis that properly trained Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians (AEMT's) may serve as triage officers for rural disasters with little difference, and perhaps improvement, in the outcomes of medical care. AEMT's are among the first responders to arrive at scenes of accidents and often triage from three to five trauma patients in multiple victim accidents on the highway. They are on duty, available and strategically located both day and night. The AEMT's are familiar with working under field conditions, i.e. at night by headlight, in rain, snow, and darkness, and know extrication procedures. They are aware of environmental hazards. They have radio and telemetry communication with a physician when needed.