Change Strengthens NEMSAC’s Role

A change in the structure of the National Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council (NEMSAC) gives the federal government’s only EMS advisory council permanence and clout. NEMSAC was modified from a discretionary advisory council to a statutory advisory council as part of the Department of Transportation (DOT) reauthorization legislation that was passed last summer.


When NEMSAC was established by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation in 2007, it was created as a discretionary advisory council, which can be established without a law. However, this type of council can also be disbanded, especially as personnel changes in the agency. Although the Council is still appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, it is now required by law and cannot be disbanded.


In addition to advising the DOT, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), NEMSAC will also make recommendations to the Federal Interagency Committee on Emergency Medical Services (FICEMS) and is initially established in coordination with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security.


“The overall purpose will remain basically the same,” says Drew E. Dawson, director of the NHTSA Office of EMS. “By being statutorily required, it increases its prominence and stature nationally. We think that’s a good thing.”


The Council was designed to provide non-federal, expert EMS advice to select federal agencies on matters relating to all aspects of the development and implementation of EMS. These recommendations help define EMS issues; provide input for national EMS strategic planning and support of EMS systems at the federal level; and offer advice on issues regarding EMS standards, guidelines, benchmarks and data collection. Strengthening the role of NEMSAC provides a recognized place for formal public input to the FICEMS priorities. “The transition from discretionary to statutory is only going to enhance the effectiveness and visibility of NEMSAC,” Dawson says. “It’s the federal law now.”


A team of 25 EMS leaders from across the nation make up the Council. Appointed by the Secretary of Transportation for a two-year term, each appointee is selected based on their experience and expertise in one or more of 21 sectors, ranging from air medical to EMS data managers. Members meet quarterly in Washington, D.C., to discuss key issues in EMS. Work groups draft advisories and recommendations for the full Council’s consideration. After extensive deliberation and opportunity for public input, the Council may agree on a recommendation and submit it to either NHTSA or FICEMS.


This past year, the Council made several recommendations, including:


“¢ NEMSAC Response to FICEMS on MUCC for MCI Triage;
“¢ Advisory on Evidence-based Guidelines for EMS System Design;
“¢ Advisory on the Next Steps for Prehospital Evidence-based Guidelines; and
“¢ Advisory on Performance-based Reimbursement.


This year, the Council has already finalized several recommendations on the importance of the National EMS Information System (NEMSIS) and the effects of fatigue in EMS. A copy of the recommendations is available at


The change to the statutorily created council will also require a new charter and a modification to the method by which the chair is selected. Under the previous structure, the chair was appointed by NHSTA on behalf of the Secretary of the Transportation. Under the new structure, the chair will be elected annually by the members of the Council.


During the transition process, the current chair, Aarron Reinert, will continue to serve out his term. The first meeting as a statutory council will most likely be in April.


An annual report will also be required and must be submitted to the Secretary of Transportation. Previously it was not required, although a recently published summary report of the NEMSAC’s work from 2010—2012 is available at

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