The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) was instrumental in establishing EMS Week when President Gerald Ford declared November 3–10, 1974 as the first National Emergency Medical Services Week.
This annual observance continued until 1978, and was then reinstituted by ACEP in 1982 with a week in September. In 1992, EMS Week was again moved to the third week in May, which is where it remains today.
EMS Week is meant to highlight the great work that our EMS providers do daily, and to bring together local communities and medical personnel to honor these individuals. Because EMS Week is the perfect time to recognize EMS and all that its practitioners do, it’s important not to let this opportunity go by without taking advantage of it.
EMS Week in Columbus
The Columbus (Ohio) Division of Fire has focused on this week every year as a time to inform and educate the community about EMS, and use the resources available to us to get our message out regarding the vital importance and impact of EMS here in Columbus.
Approximately 10 years ago, we established an EMS week planning committee that consists of EMS personnel, physicians, nurses, Public Information Officers, Fire leadership, and others that meet all year to plan for and implement our EMS week activities. We meet in September, following that year’s EMS Week, to debrief and evaluate successes and failures. In December, we start planning for the next year’s EMS Week, meeting monthly until the event begins in late May.
We try to have some activity every day during EMS week, and some of our events have become regularly scheduled ones that always occur on the same day of the week. This helps to develop and promote a tradition that the community comes to expect and looks forward to each year.
Sunday: COSI EMS & Safety Day
On Sunday of EMS week, we hold event at our Center of Science and Industry (COSI) called COSI EMS and Safety Day. At this event, we invite organizations like the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, Poison Center, Columbus Division of Police, area hospitals, Columbus Public Health, Columbus City Schools, and many other organizations to set up booths around the venue at COSI and promote health and safety.
Our area’s medical helicopter lands on the front lawn of COSI for people to view. The Columbus Division of Fire displays fire trucks and ladders, medic and rescue vehicles, and our smoke safety house.
We also get a wrecked car at a local impound lot and set a mannequin inside to demonstrate how vehicle extrication occurs, and then how a victim of an automobile accident is resuscitated. The event is a great way to kick off EMS Week, and it allows us to partner with many other healthcare organizations.
Monday: Education Day
On Monday of EMS Week, the Columbus City Council issues a proclamation that officially announces the beginning of EMS Week. They also stress the importance of EMS to the community. Our Fire Chief is there to accept the proclamation and they are surrounded by firefighters and EMS personnel.
The Medical Director is also there, and he and the Fire Chief usually say a few words of gratitude to City Council. Sometimes, an individual or family who has been positively impacted by EMS will say a few words. The press is there to cover the event and get the word out.
Tuesday: Safety Day
On Tuesday, we conduct New American CPR training. We work with community centers to identify groups of new American citizens, and we train them in hands-only CPR. In the Columbus community, this includes individuals from Nepal, Bhutan, Somalia, and Mexico.
We teach the course with CPR manikins, and then we give each participant an Anytime CPR kit to take home to their family and friends—so they can teach them the same skills. The people that take this training are very appreciative; even with language barriers, the message still gets through and people understand the concept.
Wednesday: EMS for Children Day
On Wednesday, we hold an event called “Kids Learn CPR.” During this event, we go into a neighborhood school and teach hands-only CPR to students. We teach 100 students per session in the school gymnasium.
The school superintendent and school nursing leadership help kick off the training with some comments and the training takes about one hour to complete. At the end of the training, each student is given an Anytime CPR kit to take home and train others.
One year, we had a contest to determine which student could train the most people—it was a great opportunity to continue building an effective, professional relationship with the Columbus Public School staff.
The students are usually very engaged and receptive to the training. Our CPR training staff and paramedic students to perform the training, along with school nurses. Over the last ten years, we’ve taught over 1,000 students.
Thursday: Save-A-Life Day
On Thursday, we hold our annual Cardiac Arrest Survivor celebration and luncheon. This is our signature event for the week, and it brings home the extremely personal nature of the impact that EMS personnel have on the lives of so many in the community. We invite the mayor, city council members, public safety leadership and other prominent members of the community to attend.
We invite 5–8 cardiac arrest patients who have been successfully resuscitated by Columbus EMS providers. The survivors, along with their families, can meet the individuals who saved their lives. At the event, we invite the survivor and their respective rescuers to the stage to be recognized and have a photo taken. Those photos are then hung on the Cardiac Arrest Wall of Fame in the Columbus EMS training building.
Friday: EMS Recognition Day
On Friday, we hold our “CPR on the Square” event in front of Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus. We bring in CPR manikins and conduct hands-only CPR training during lunch hour, when office workers are on their break. In addition to receiving training in the middle of the town square, people are also given an Anytime CPR kit to take home.
Effective Relationships with the Local Media
As with any high-profile event, effective public relations are of key importance, and we’ve made the most of our relationships with the local press and media outlets. They love to come to these events and tell great stories that project EMS in a very positive light.
Our Public Information Office also makes sure that our elected officials are invited to these events. In doing so, they learn about the tremendous importance of EMS to the community that they serve. Awareness of the impact of EMS to our decision makers has afforded us some significant benefits.
EMS week is the one time of the year when we can recognize and promote the importance of EMS to our communities. Instead of just viewing EMS providers as “ambulance drivers,” the community is educated about the vast impact that EMS has on the overall wellbeing and good health of the citizens being served. Here in Columbus, we don’t ever want to let that opportunity pass us by without taking advantage of it.
Having hospitals put out cookies and snacks for EMS providers doesn’t really do it justice. Using EMS Week to promote your EMS agency might pay rich dividends for a long time. If your EMS agency isn’t making optimal use of this week, consider putting together a planning committee and finding out what would work out best in your area.