WASHINGTON – EMS professionals gathered in Washington, D.C. this week to recognize 103 of their own at the American Ambulance Association’s National Stars of Life awards program. In its 17th year, the event highlighted the dedication, innovation, leadership and significant on-duty or off-duty actions in the field of emergency medical services.
Monday’s awards luncheon was kicked off with an inspiring keynote speech by 2007 Star of Life award recipient Marc Creswell of Acadian Ambulance. Creswell’s speech was built around his start with EMS beginning with Acadian and significant events during his service that shaped the theme of his message, a call to know the people you work with before you begin to lead them and to recognize that sometimes you will have to do whatever it takes to deliver EMS in the most stressful environment.
Marc Creswell is Acadian’s Operations Manager in the Air Med-Roto Wing division. He started his employment with Acadian in Abbeville in 1990. An accident with a friend while on horseback, and subsequent helicopter fly-out, would be the catalyst that set Marc’s career.
In a unique incident landmark tour of Louisiana, Marc shared small but significant personal and professional highlights that exemplified the character of Acadian’s employees and that shaped Marc’s attitude towards those he works with and the people he serves.
“When in doubt, lead first”
During his career Marc and Acadian responded to several incidents, notable among them were the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and the Lafayette theater shooting. In each Marc shared sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, lessons about people, leadership, compassion, and being focused on the mission. No examples given would be as profound as the ones experienced during Hurricane Katrina.
On August 27, 2005 Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states braced themselves for the impact of Category 3 hurricane. In a few hours, as flooding began to overtake New Orleans, Katrina became a Category 5 hurricane. In speaking about both operational and personal preparation for the massive storm, Marc continually reminded the audience that they need to be in touch with the people they are working with, personally connected to them. This is done by being with them in the field, on the streets, where they work and in their environment. Marc shared photos of coworkers doing essentially whatever it took to make preparations for the devastating storm. He constantly highlighted the actual dress of the individuals in some of his photos, as an example that rank is about service and not standing out in brass and gold braid.
Special to Marc’s message were the small details about Katrina that some of us did not fully know. From cutting down light poles on the top of Tulane Medical Center’s parking garage to land helicopters, to commandeering a tractor-trailer, driving through floodwater and bringing patients to an overpass triage area, the almost ease at which these actions were done highlights the value placed in training and preparedness for such events. Quite a few of these actions, it should be noted, had little to do with delivering a specific EMS action and more to do with compassion, creating positive working relationships, and taking care of those you work with.
Throughout the keynote Marc also emphasized his points with similar leadership attributes from various military figures. Each one held the strong and underlying themes that are the reason for successful operations:
- Know your people
- Have an immediate plan now
- Understand that sometimes you need to do whatever it takes to get the job done
“Sometimes you need to put that book on the shelf,” said Marc, as he talked about recognizing and understanding that sometimes things are not always going to go as planned and that sometimes you’re not always going to be doing EMS by the book.
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