A&E’s “Nightwatch Nation” shines a light on the after-dark world of EMTs and paramedics in Yonkers.
The series, premiering Thursday at 10 p.m., follows three crews from Empress Ambulance, a Yonkers EMT service, as they work the overnight shift.
It’s a spinoff of A&E’s “Nightwatch,” which tracked not only EMTs but fire departments and police departments in New Orleans and Tampa.
“Nightwatch Nation” also spotlights EMTs and paramedics in Austin, Tucson and Baton Rouge (each episode bounces between locations).
The series is executive-produced by 44 Blue Productions and “Law & Order” guru Dick Wolf, who also produces NBC’s “Chicago” triplets (“Chicago Med,” “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago PD”) and “Cold Justice,” a crime-solving reality series airing on Oxygen.
“The preponderance of interesting calls are at night,” says Wolf regarding the show’s overnight focus. “There are a lot of emergencies that happen during the daylight hours, of course, but in terms of stuff that may be anything from bar fights to shootings, it’s much more prevalent at night. We were forewarned what we were going to see.”
“Nightwatch Nation” camera crews followed three separate teams of Empress EMTs and paramedics (six people in all) over a nine-week period starting in April.
“They did a good job staying out of the way and filmed everything from a safe distance,” says Jamiel Cunningham, one of the Yonkers EMTs featured in the series. (He’s studying to become a paramedic at Westchester Community College.) “If we went into a private residence [the camera crew] didn’t come in unless they got the go-ahead [from the person being treated]. Some people just say no. It varies from call to call.”
(Everyone who appears on-camera signed a release form; others signed waivers allowing them to appear on camera but with their faces blurred.)
Cunningham, who’s paired with paramedic Ariel Miclat, says the nighttime calls “are just different, the people are a little bit different” than what he sees during his daytime shifts (he works both). “You find that, during the daytime, everyone is going about their business. At nighttime, that’s when everyone is home doing whatever they’re doing — having drinks, hanging out, whatever.”
“We learned that [in ‘Nightwatch’] in New Orleans, Bourbon Street at night was more interesting,” says Wolf. “What we’re going to be dealing with is aspects of humanity at 3 a.m.”
In the Yonkers segments of “Nightwatch Nation,” viewers will see the Empress ambulance teams handle everything from treating a stroke victim to drug overdoses, stabbings and motorcycle crashes.
Cunningham says one call in particular stood out for him while the series was being filmed.
“It was a choking victim. He choked on a steak sandwich and his heart stopped beating,” he says. “We were able to get there on time and did what we had to do and actually got him back [to life] to go to the hospital. He was home just a few hours later.”
“First responders are cut from a different cloth,” Wolf says. “It’s not part of anybody’s normal job description, and they do it without hesitation. You don’t have to worry about following chains of evidence.
“You’re pretty much following heroes.”
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