From May 14 to 20, EMS Week will be celebrated. EMS Week is always celebrated in the third week of May. The theme of this year’s EMS Week is “EMS – New Century, New Hope.” The message is designed to recognize contributions made by EMS providers throughout the country. EMS Week is sponsored by such fire organizations as the U.S. Fire Administration, International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Fire Fighters, National Volunteer Fire Council and Congressional Fire Services Institute.
President Gerald Ford first signed the official proclamation designating EMS Week in 1973. Ever since, EMS Week has been celebrated each year to recognize the accomplishments of the men and women who dedicate their lives to saving the lives of others while educating the public about how and when to utilize EMS services.
Fire agencies should not pass up this opportunity to show what a vital component we play in our communities with the delivery of emergency medical services. EMS Week is an excellent chance to show our citizens how valuable the fire service is to the communities we serve. The other opportunity comes in October with Fire Prevention Week.
How important is EMS? Information put out by the American College of Emergency Physicians indicates that one in three Americans visits an emergency department each year; heart disease is the leading cause of death overall, but injuries are the leading causes of death of people ages 1 to 38; more than 9,000 lives are saved each year by seatbelts; only 75% of the population is covered by the 911 emergency number; and finally the staggering statistics that prove the fire service’s worth in EMS – 80% of all calls to fire departments are EMS related.
The American College of Emergency Physicians provides staff and financial support for the production and distribution of EMS Week promotional materials as a public education service. Each year, thousands of EMS Week planning kits are mailed directly to fire agencies.
So what can you do during EMS Week? First on the agenda should be to promote EMS and your department. Develop some type of activity that is unique to your region. As an example, if you live in a farm community, you may try to promote agricultural safety; if your department operates in a densely populated city, gang-violence prevention in the schools may be in order. Departments in states heavily laden with lakes or other bodies of water, such as Michigan or Florida, could offer classes on boating or swimming safety.
Most school proms are held in the latter part of May. This is another prime opportunity for promoting fire departments doing EMS. Many fire departments like to put on extrication demonstrations for high school seniors to discourage drinking and driving on prom night. One fire department calls this the “Prom-Promise.” After the education and extrication demonstration, students sign a pledge in which they promise not to drink and drive on prom night.
Being creative is key to being successful during EMS Week. Don’t hesitate to get sponsors who are eager to help, if not with cash, then with time, manpower or donations.
One fire department in Colorado gave children firsthand experience by dressing them in bunker gear and walking them through a miniature smoke house. The goal should be to reach the maximum amount of people possible. One EMS organization had information on EMS and themselves placed on trayliners in a local fast-food restaurant. The end result: over 20,000 people were reached.
If you have a business community where many people gather outside during the lunch hour, hold a fair with different booths and demonstrations of equipment. Booths could offer free blood pressure screenings, free ambulance rides or teddy bear clinics for children.
One fire agency, with the help of the local police department, conducted a “checkpoint,” looking for cars with children who were not in safety seats. Drivers were not given tickets, but instead each received a free safety seat, in which the child was promptly placed. Other examples of promoting EMS Week include free CPR classes, I.D. fingerprinting for children, medical identification cards or “Vials of Life” for senior citizens, glucose testing and free home injury prevention inspections. If your department has a web page, don’t forget to add EMS Week.
Of course, do not pass up the opportunity to get the media involved in your activities during EMS Week. Send out advisories to local TV and radio stations as well as print media informing them of your various programs. Invite reporters to ride-along for a day. Be prepared to have some members of your department interviewed. Look for something to pique the interest of the reporter, such as a recent delivery of a baby or the successful resuscitation of a patient who has returned home.
Don’t forget the possibility of recognizing a citizen who has been instrumental in saving a life with CPR or the Heimlich maneuver. Presenting the citizen with an award at a ceremony will certainly stir the interest of the media. After establishing contact with the media, it is important not to let that relationship die. Most certainly, there will be other important events during the year that will warrant media attention.
Fire departments that provide any form of emergency medical service should not hesitate to let the community know its value and worth.
EMS Week certainly provides those opportunities.
Gary Ludwig, MS, EMT-P, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is the chief paramedic for the St. Louis Fire Department and is the vice chairman of the EMS Executive Board for the International Association of Fire Chiefs. He has lectured nationally and internationally on fire-based EMS topics and operates The Ludwig Group, a consulting firm specializing in EMS and fire issues. He can be reached at GaryLudwig@aol.com.