National EMS Week will be celebrated May 21-27. The theme for 2017, which the American College of Emergency Physicians hopes will carry on beyond the designated week, is “EMS Strong — Always in Service,” and it is presented by the ACEP and the National Association of EMTs.
ACEP officials stated on the organization’s website, “We want to use this year’s theme to make EMS week a 365-day initiative, to give EMS a significantly greater visibility among other health professionals and in their communities.”
The hope is that National EMS Week will catapult excitement and interest about the profession — not just for one week, but all yearlong. The theme seeks to bring awareness to emergency medical services as an “indispensable part of the health care continuum.”
Rick Murray, EMS and Disaster Preparedness Department director, has been one of the leaders behind this week for 20 years. He said ACEP has had three purposes for National EMS Week from the start:
- To educate communities about the local EMS system, namely on what it is and what it isn’t. Some members of a community may not be aware that their department has only basic life support while others might not know they have members specially trained for certain disasters. Murray said this gives the community a chance to ask for higher levels of service if they want it.
- EMS Week is a great way to highlight the things that paramedics like to do, such as educate the public on safety and health practices. National EMS Week is a great push to highlight programs that are available all yearlong.
- To educate EMS providers in the newest techniques and technologies available to them. This week is a great opportunity for inservice days and to bring in speakers.
Murray said many EMS providers take the opportunity to feed into one, if not all, of these three purposes during National EMS Week.
In order to encourage EMS departments to commemorate National EMS Week, ACEP provides staff and financial support while also producing and distributing promotional materials for the departments to use. Murray said last year they printed and distributed 20,000 full-color, 50-page planning guides across the country that offered suggestions of things to do as well as other information. The planning guide is also available online.
History of EMS Week
The first National EMS Week was declared by President Gerald Ford Nov. 3-10, 1974, with support from the ACEP. It was observed for four years. At that time, emergency medical services were a fairly new profession and the value of the profession was just starting to be recognized. ACEP was a driving force in getting this designation in order to bring attention to this new but important profession.
ACEP reinstated the week in 1982 but moved it to September. In 1992 the week was moved again to the third week of May where it remains today. The move to May was made to separate it from National Fire Prevention Safety Week in October. In the early 1980s, ACEP gathered ideas and distributed materials to promote EMS Week, and by the late 1980s, the planning kits were being developed.
Across the country, Murray said about half of the EMS providers are fire based and most of the rest are third city services, meaning they have a separate police, fire and EMS department. He said having one public safety department is becoming less common because of the more specialized skills needed in both police and emergency medical services areas.
Deputy Chief Frank Carlo of the Montclair, N.J., Ambulance Unit said they haven’t cemented plans for this year’s celebration yet. In the past, the unit has held open houses and given information about its CPR classes and babysitting safety classes.
The last couple of years what has worked best for them, however, is to piggyback on a town festival that is held a couple of weeks prior to National EMS Week. Carlo said the unit sets up its assets, has an information table and has its headquarters open for the public to tour. During the actual week of the celebration, it focuses on its providers and recognizing them for the work that they do. “We ask local restaurants to help by offering reduced or free meals for the staff during National EMS Week, and we present them with a few little gifts to show our appreciation,” he said.
The Montclair Town Council approves a resolution declaring National EMS Week in the city and mentions EMS for Children Day, which is Wednesday. He said the hospitals in the area are usually pretty good about providing a gift for the EMS staff or having sandwiches available for them when they bring in patients. One year an ice cream place set up a sundae station so when the crew came in with patients they could stop and get a sundae.
Carlo said there are 41 members of the Montclair Ambulance Unit, including officers and drivers. The unit is a basic life support provider, and it responds on all calls while the hospitals generally provide advanced life support assistance. He said the state of New Jersey is a two-tiered system.
“We tend to like to stay in the background a little — we go out and do our jobs and serve the people,” he said.
So when it comes to National EMS Week the management has decided lately to focus on the staff and offering appreciation to them. “They get very little recognition for what they do,” he said.
Columbia, S.C., has held a parade the last 10 years. Director of EMS Michael Byrd said EMS personnel from all over the state participated. When the parade reached the state capitol, the legislature would recognize the EMS workers. Byrd said the legislature will not be in session this year during National EMS Week, so they won’t be holding the parade but will recognize their personnel on the local level.
A theme a day
This year celebrating National EMS Week will be a little different. Murray said each day within the week has its own theme. “We’re pretty excited about it,” he said.
Monday is Education Day — Education can be for the public or for the paramedics.
Tuesday is Safety Day — It can also be for the public or for paramedics, with a focus on job safety, safe practices, etc.
Wednesday is EMS for Children Day — This day often features a bike safety rodeo that introduces the children to local EMS providers and teaches providers that children are “not just little adults,” Murray said.
Thursday is Save a Life Day — Th is would be a great day to introduce
the Stop the Bleed Campaign, a national campaign to train the public how to use tourniquets to stop the bleed. “This campaign came out of active shooter situations,” Murray said. The campaign seeks to have tourniquets in public places and train the public so they can apply aid until responders can get to the victim.
Or it would be a good day to participate in the World CPR Challenge. ACEP has partnered with the International Association of Fire Chiefs and American Medical Response — one of the largest private ambulance services — to ring in the World CPR Challenge, where the goal is to train 1 million people in compression CPR. Murray said pumping the chest is something anyone can do, but proper training will help. There is a website where one can go to log the CPR class taken and help reach that goal at http://www.acep.org/emsweek/cprchallenge.
Friday is EMS Recognition Day — Th is would a great day to recognize your members or to highlight those who have saved a life or brought a baby into the world in the past year. Get the EMS crew member together with the one whose life they saved and tell the story to the media, buy lunch or dinner for the staff or give them a gift.
These are just a few ideas — many more are found in the planning guides.
So why celebrate National EMS Week? Murray said again, it’s good to educate the community so they know the services they have and what is available to them not just during a special week, but all yearlong.