Prior to COVID-19, I had entertained the thought of writing a blog during National EMS Week about the ways that NFPA collaborates with the EMS community on contamination control, various health and safety concerns, on technical committees and via extensive outreach. We proudly sit at the table with EMS innovators and keep their roles and responsibilities at the forefront of our work at NFPA.
I contemplated a piece that touched on the challenges that today’s EMS providers encounter on the job. Afterall, addressing industry concerns seemed like a natural way to support this year's EMS STRONG campaign theme: READY TODAY. PREPARING FOR TOMORROW, organized by The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT). I thought, I’ll point to EMS providers dealing with more on-the-job violence than ever these days – something that was reported on in the NFPA Journal piece, Toll of Violence. That feature looked at both physical assaults as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a sad reality on the front lines these days.
I was also excited to call attention to a new initative that we had created for the EMS community this year. Knowing that EMS workers need to keep abreast of a wide range of issues given the nature of their all-hazards role, NFPA was slated to launch a new program at our annual Conference & Expo in June that would offer EMS professionals 12 hours of continuing education units (CEUs). It was designed to serve as the springboard for future NFPA programs that provide information and knowledge to responders. We wanted to take an active role in preparing the EMS community for tomorrow, just as this year’s awareness campaign asks.
But, of course, this all changed in the United States when an entirely different occupational hazard surfaced in Washington State four months ago. From Day One, the COVID-19 crisis has entailed significant EMS involvement. The pandemic has required our nation’s EMS community to be ready for today with new protocols and greater risks. And EMS has stepped up, again and again, because they are always ready. First responders have made do with less and done more to help their communities, support their brothers and sisters in healthcare, and most importantly - to support each other. The pandemic has prompted leaders to document COVID-related impacts and to look to tomorrow in terms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the likelihood of the coronavirus returning in the fall. There are so many lessons being learned now. The entire EMS community must step forward and ensure that we use lessons learned today to be ready for tomorrow.
During a task force call last Thursday, it was reported that 46 firefighters and EMS personnel have been killed by the coronavirus. The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) has also established a dashboard that provides up to the minute numbers on infection, virus testing, isolations, deaths, and many more real-time insights from fire departments and ambulance services. The dashboard information is helping leaders to see the big EMS response picture right now and in the long run, the data will help influence post-pandemic protocol and policymaking.
The most recent research from NFPA shows that in 2018, local fire departments responded to an estimated 23,551,500 ambulance, EMS or rescue calls with 45 percent nationwide proving basic life support and 17 percent offering advanced life support. This call volume does not reflect the emergency calls answered by single roll EMS services who also handle a large portion of 911 responsibilities in the U.S., but you get the picture – our EMS providers are working hard to administer care to those who need it most.
If we expect trained professionals to show up when we dial 911 – it is paramount that we take care of those who take care of us during COVID times and when normal times resume. If there was ever a time in history, where the value and valor of our EMS providers has been abundantly clear, it is now. Please join NFPA in saluting the nation's finest during National EMS Week, May 17-23, 2020.