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Stopping the Epidemic: What More Can You Do?

With EMS Week set for May 15--21, here are some great tips for public education activities. --Ed

We've all had that call. The one where, when you leave the scene or hospital, you know that it could have been prevented. You tell yourself, this time I am going to get involved; I'm tired of seeing kids hurt and killed! But after a few days, you put it behind you and go on.

According to the CDC, in 2002, unintentional injuries were the leading cause of death for children and adults ages 1--44. What can the EMS profession do to stop these tragedies?

First, look around your community. Do you see any trends? Children riding in vehicles unrestrained, or in car seats that need to be replaced? Are there hunters in your area? How many hunting injuries do you see each year? Is your community near the water? How many drownings or near-drownings have you worked?

Second, find your passion! What do you like to do in your spare time? Take your hobby--horseback riding, swimming, hunting, etc.--and your knowledge as an EMT, and what do you have? You have an invaluable asset to the community.

Third, do your homework. Contact your state EMS office and get the statistics of injuries and deaths for your area. You will be stunned how many have been hurt and killed while engaging in their favorite activity.

Next, find a place to speak. This might take some phone work: Start with schools. Most school administrators like to have knowledgeable lecturers come in and speak to their students. When you are talking to young children, take props with you--cigarette lighters, bike helmets, etc. If you have taken a child passenger safety tech class and want to teach new parents about car seats, local hospitals are the best places for that. Call any state or local agency or community group that serves the population you are trying to reach to see if they will help you put together a program.

If funding is an issue, contact your local businesses. They are often willing to help in any way they can. Just be sure to mention them in any press releases or flyers you send out. Public relations go both ways.

Speaking of PR, don't forget the media. They can be great allies in getting out your message, so be sure to develop a good relationship with them. Also, you want to be recognized for your hard work and they're good at that, too.

Finally, if you don't have time to volunteer, but you still want to help, then cover a volunteering coworker's shift. I could not have done all that I have without my friends covering my shifts!

Here are a few more ideas that I have tried with great success:

  • Mock Crash (This is great for high schools around prom and homecoming.)
  • Safety Expo (Get your 5th graders together for a safety day. Have different exhibits and speakers to talk to students about how to stay safe.)
  • Information Resource (Keep up with local news--when you see a health fair advertised, call and invite yourself to hand out safety info!)
  • School Fairs & Assemblies (Sponsor safety-related games: Jeopardy, Bingo and hangman are great! Get local businesses to give coupons for prizes.)
  • Teach babysitter safety.
  • Get certified as a child passenger safety (CPS) technician. Then you will be able to hold inspections and teach new parents how to correctly use their car seats. To find a course near you, go to www.safekids.org.
  • Many restaurants designate one night a week as family night. Find those that will let you come to speak about safety and hand out literature.

Remember, it is our responsibility to help stop these tragic deaths. So get involved today--and have fun!

Below is a list of websites where you can get statistics, free handouts and plenty of ideas for programs:

  • www.nhtsa.dot.gov
  • www.safekids.org
  • www.epicmedics.org
  • www.kaboom.org
  • www.cpsc.gov
  • www.cdc.org
  • www.boatsafe.com
  • www.ems-c.org
  • www.nfpa.org
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