EMS Week 2013: One Mission. One Team.

The theme of the 2013 National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week is “EMS: One Mission. One Team.” Typically, when we think of the team that encompasses EMS, we think of the emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, firefighters, police officers and 9-1-1 telecommunicators who answer the call and provide high quality and compassionate out of hospital medical care day in and day out. The reality is that everyone can and should be a part of the EMS team. What do I mean by that?

emsbostonresponseNo recent event has demonstrated this more clearly, and certainly none with more photographic and video evidence, than the bombings at the Boston Marathon last month. Spectators, runners, National Guardsmen, police officers, nurses and physicians jumped into action even before the smoke cleared on Boylston Street. Whether disassembling barricades so that trained personnel could reach the victims or providing immediate and lifesaving interventions, such as hemorrhage control, these non-traditional responders are as much to credit for saving every viable patient as are the members of Boston EMS, Fire and Police and the countless physicians, surgeons and nurses who operating with precision and skill.

While the Marathon bombings highlighted everyone’s role on the EMS team, it was clearly an extreme and dramatic example. What are some everyday steps you can take to be better prepared to help yourself, your family and neighbors in the event of a medical emergency?

1. Know when to call 9-1-1 and teach your children how to do so as well. Sometimes it is clear when you should dial 9-1-1 – a car crash, an intruder in your home – but sometimes it is more subtle. For example, recent studies indicate that 1 in 3 stroke emergencies do not access emergency medical care through 9-1-1.  Accessing EMS through 9-1-1 is the fastest way for you to receive the care that you need. If you or someone you are with experiences any of the following signs or symptoms of a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately:  Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Difficulty speaking, Difficulty walking

For tips for calling 9-1-1, see an earlier blog of mine “Knowing the Basics About 9-1-1 Could Save your Life.

2. Learn how to perform CPR and the use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED). 9-1-1 call takers will walk you through these steps over the phone, but it is always best to learn these lifesaving skills before needing them.

3. Pull over to the right and stop anytime you hear an emergency vehicle’s siren or see their emergency lights activated.

4. Have your child’s car seat checked or installed by someone trained to do so. Many EMS, Fire, and Police departments provide this service free of charge.

5. Always wear a seat belt when operating or riding in a motor vehicle, and don’t drive (or allow others to drive) under the influence.

6. Install fencing with child-proof gates around your pool and never leave toddlers or children unattended near water. A child can drown in only a couple of inches of water.

7. Child-proof the cabinets and staircases in your home to keep little ones from ingesting dangerous substances or medications, or from falling down a set of stairs.

8. Get to know your neighbors, particularly your elderly neighbors, and check on them if you haven’t seen them recently or during extreme weather or temperatures.

9.  Make sure 9-1-1 has the information they need to help you prior to an emergency by creating a Safety Profile at Smart911. Your Safety Profile is kept private until you dial 9-1-1 in a Smart911-connected, but the information you share can allow for a more rapid and effective emergency response.

If you have the opportunity to this week (or any other time), thank an EMT or a Paramedic for the vital service that they provide to your community. You can also Tweet your appreciation using the #EMSWeek hashtag, post a note on our Facebook wall for EMS providers to see, or share your thoughts on your local EMS agency’s Facebook page.