FEMA Deputy to Raise Profile of EMS

DURHAM, N.H. -- There should be little doubt that the nation's emergency medical providers have a friend in a very high place.

Richard Serino, the newly appointed deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told a group of about 100 providers at a conference in New Hampshire that he fully intends to use newly acquired political clout to get more funding for emergency medical service.

FEMA has about $7 billion to give away annually, Serino told the gathered providers.

With that comment someone in the audience called out; "How about sending some more to EMS?"

"Do you know what, I think I will," Serino responded, noting that it was a priority on his list. His response drew spontaneous applause.

Serino, the former chief of Boston Emergency Medical Services, is a newly minted presidential appointee, having left his gig in Boston on Oct. 8, 2009. The 35.5-year veteran of EMS said he was pleased with his new position and was anxious to raise the profile of emergency medical services.

Serino was speaking at the inaugural conference of Focus EMS, sponsored by McGregor Institute of EMS, a non-profit organization providing education to the public and to healthcare providers in pre-hospital emergency medicine in New England. It's based in Durham, N.H.

The deputy's presentation, which was planned long before he took the appointment, was on the topic of "EMS at the Intersection of Public Health and Public Safety." He focused on the unique position EMS providers have in their mission and with the agencies with which they work. Providers not only provide emergency care, they can also be pro-active, sponsoring illness and injury prevention education like child seat safety checks and events to promote the use of bicycle helmets and discourage use of drugs and abuse of alcohol.

"To improve the health of the people of our community -- that's what we do," Serino said. "...We need to work on putting ourselves out of business someday. That really should be the goal."

Serino said he was honored and humbled by the appointment. "I got into this to help people and working for FEMA is an extension of the same thing," he said.

To be sure, he will be a strong advocate for EMS.

"We will be looking to enhance funding for EMS over the next several years," Serino said, noting that FEMA funding dedicated to EMS is currently about 4 percent.

He also said he plans to carry on the mantra he's been following for his entire career as an EMS provider and administrator.

"Take care of the patients and do the right thing," Serino said. "That's the way EMTs and paramedics do things."