Planning Your EMS Week

Ed's Note: Be sure to check out the EMS Week Ideas site, which offers resources and tools to help you get ready for EMS Week and stay focused on your profession year round. Explore new ways to participate in, grow and support EMS.

National EMS Week is an opportunity for EMS providers to “show EMS off” and bring awareness to other medical providers and the public about what EMS is and what it can do for them.

Is your agency prepared? Is this the time for an open house with free blood pressure screening for your community? Is it the time to treat your off duty providers with free tickets to a sporting event? Free pizza for on-duty crews? Dunking booths to give “ground pounders” a chance to exact a little revenge on management?

There are many events that can be conducted during this time. When EMS agencies think about planning for EMS Week, they should key in on two important groups: the local community and medical personnel.

A big part of EMS Week is a focus on EMS. Many times, that involves visibility. Most of the time when people think visibility, they think advertising. In the economic environment we are in, where agencies are looking after every penny they receive, there might not be finances available to advertise EMS Week in your community as much as you’d like.

Fortunately, we’re living in a digital age, and you can do a lot of advertising without spending any money at all. Use your agency's website to post information about EMS Week. Facebook and Twitter also offer opportunities for free advertising of any events you are conducting.

Take full advantage of the social media presence of other groups in your community. Do the hospitals you transport patients too have social media? Of course they do, they post ER wait times that way. What about the locality your agency is based in? Chamber of Commerce? Local news outlets? All of these are means to get the message out, and in an inexpensive way.

Speaking of hospitals, EMS Week is also important as it pertains to other medical personnel. After all, they do have nurses’ week, doctors' week, phlebotomists' week…so EMS should have its time to shine, too. These days most hospitals do something for EMS, even if it’s just access to all the Shasta ginger ale you can drink. Truth be told, EMS Week is a good opportunity for you to showcase what your agency is capable of that hospital staff may not get a chance to see any other time. If your agency recently adopted a new protocol or treatment modality, EMS Week provides an excellent opportunity to let the hospitals you work with know about these updates.

For both the public, as well as other medical providers, EMS Week also provides the chance to network. This can easily be done through social-type events, either open to the general public or to targeted individuals or groups. If you are thinking about a capital improvement project, then maybe you need to involve government officials or representatives of organizations that could bring donations or grants to fund that project. Thinking about contracting for services (transports from certain areas or facilities, standbys for special events)? EMS Week is an excellent time to invite those people to your agency to familiarize them with what you do.

Of course, this is also an opportunity to interact with the public, usually done through an open house of some kind. Now, punch and cookies are fine, but it’s more important to get information out to the public that you may not be able to otherwise. Have you implemented response measures? Have new vehicles or equipment? Billing for service? The general public might be a lot more interested and receptive to those initiatives if they first see them in your squad building during EMS Week, rather than during an emergency at 2 a.m. or when they receive a bill.

As much as the general public and other medical personnel should be part of the EMS Week plan for your agency, this should also be an opportunity for the agency management to do something special for their rank and file as well. There are several ways to do this but “staff recognition” should definitely be the theme. This may be an opportunity to offer something special for your staff. Some agencies have provided tickets to sporting events, amusement parks or similar attractions. There’s always an opportunity to work with a local ball team or attraction to offer an “EMS Recognition Day” for all EMS personnel in your area. For those actually on duty, simply providing a home-cooked meal during shift may go along way for agency morale. It may also be an opportunity to give agency apparel to staff as a giveaway or a raffle, if they are normally asked to cover expenses for uniforms and apparel themselves.

For those who want to participate in events outside of their own agency there are national events going on during EMS Week. The National EMS Memorial Bike Ride takes EMS providers from all over the U.S. and Canada on a multi-day bike ride from both Boston, MA and Paintsville, KY, with both routes finishing in Alexandria, VA. The Ride is to honor EMS providers who have died in the line of duty.

There are many ideas available to EMS providers and agencies to celebrate EMS Week. Some can be done without a lot of time and planning, while others may take considerable effort. Before you decide which direction to go in have an idea of the agency’s financial position, as well as the ability to have dialogue with external entities who may be interested in participating or assisting your agency in EMS Week activities.

Timothy J. Perkins, BS, EMT-P, is the EMS systems planner for the Virginia Department of Health's Office of EMS, host of EMS World's EMS Squadcast podcast and a member of the EMS World editorial advisory board.