By Tom Kiurski
“Emergency Medical Services is a system of care for victims of sudden and serious illness or injury. This system depends on the availability and coordination of many different elements, ranging from an informed public capable of recognizing medical emergencies, the highly trained dispatchers that serve our community with pride and dedication, and the firefighters who are trained to deliver the highest quality of emergency medical services available.” The above statement is a prepared introduction to National EMS Week by the American College of Emergency Physicians. Your department can use it to call attention to another service provided by the fire department.
Ever since former President Ford signed the first official proclamation in 1973, National Emergency Medical Services Week has been celebrated each year to recognize the accomplishments of the men and women who dedicate themselves to saving the lives of others and to educating the public about how and when to utilize EMS. We have responded to EMS incidents for several decades. Take the time to explain to your communities, through cable, television and newspapers, that the local fire department also responds to the calls for EMS. It still surprises some groups when they hear that the fire department delivers medical services.
The 2005 National EMS Week theme, “Ready, Responsive, Reliable,” speaks to the efforts that EMS providers have made in our communities, and the countless ways they will continue to ensure our health, protection, and physical well-being in the coming years.
Many fire departments use EMS Week as a way to bring attention to their departments in new and creative ways. In addition to the television and print media Public Service Announcements (PSAs), some fire departments have emphasized their unique programs. Some fire departments hold open houses the fire station during EMS Week to better inform citizens that it is indeed the fire department that responds to EMS calls. Some offer public tours of their rigs. Consider taking a Polaroid picture of families in the ambulances and give it to them to take home.
Other fire departments invite public officials to do a “ride along” shift with the on-duty staff. This can serve many purposes, but first and foremost, it informs the leaders and citizens of the work done by the firefighters.
Some fire departments team up with local nurses and hold a “Teddy Bear and Doll Clinic”, having fire and nurse personnel on hand to give dolls and bears a “check-up” and talk families about the service provided by the firefighters and nurses. Blood pressure checks, glucose tests, cholesterol checks, and others are some of the tests that can be performed quickly and on-site by different organizations.
Be creative, and find interested members of the fire department to help promote and staff an event like this. There are a few weeks a year that naturally fall into the realm of the fire service, and this is one of them.
Tom Kiurski is a lieutenant, a paramedic, and the director of fire safety education for Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue. His book, Creating a Fire-Safe Community: A Guide for Fire Safety Educators (Fire Engineering, 1999) is a guide for bringing the safety message to all segments of the community efficiently and economically.