Since President Gerald Ford first recognized EMS Week in 1973, communities, hospitals, healthcare organizations, survivors and EMS agencies spend a week every year in May recognizing the lifesaving work of EMS professionals.
AROUND THE COUNTRY, EMS Week is celebrated with a variety of events. Here are a few ways that some organizations observe EMS Week and ideas that may inspire communities, hospitals and EMS agencies—large and small— who are getting ready to recognize EMS Week 2016.
Boston EMS, a larger agency that responds to 135,000 calls for ALS and BLS response service each year, looks to Boston area partners to help recognize EMS Week each year.
“EMS Week is always a tremendous opportunity to recognize our personnel and promote community awareness and appreciation for EMS,” says Laura Segal, Chief of Staff of Boston EMS. “Ultimately, there is never enough we can do to fully express our appreciation. With a limited budget, we depend on our partners to help and get a bit creative.”
Seeking local partners to recognize EMS Week
For 2016, Boston EMS has again teamed up with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to light the Zakim Bridge in blue and orange to recognize the Star of Life emblem worn by EMS professionals. As they have in years past, Boston EMS is also partnering with Boston Property to light the Prudential Center tower blue and orange one night during EMS Week.
In Boston, City Hall will fly an EMS flag and City Council will pass an EMS Week Resolution, while the Massachusetts Senate recognizes the week with an EMS Week Proclamation. A number of the Boston-area hospitals will offer meals to EMS teams during EMS week and free educational opportunities with CEUs.
Command Staff Cooks Event
The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the union which represents EMTs, paramedics, lieu tenants and captains, is also collaborating with Boston EMS to host a Command Staff Cooks joint event, which provides food cooked by command personnel, including Deputy Superintendents, Superintendents, the Superintendent in Chief and the Chief of Department, during all three shifts. During EMS Week 2016, Boston EMS will also run a community event with CPR education, ambulance tours and EMS informational booths.
Methodist Healthcare, a not-for-profit, faith-based healthcare system in Memphis, Tennessee, employs paramedics to their full scope of practice in the emergency departments of its seven hospitals. Recognizing that EMS plays such an integral part of the hospital team, Methodist Healthcare holds an EMS Symposium each year during EMS Week and honors an EMS Service Crew member who took part in a special “patient save” with the presentation of a plaque in front of 200 of their colleagues.
Hospital-hosted free lunch and CEUs
Positioned in the “buckle” of the stroke and heart disease belt, Memphis Healthcare has more than 1,700 beds and 10,000 total employees, including 66 paramedics. For EMS Week 2016, Methodist Healthcare will host a Pre-Hospital Cardiac Symposium for EMS providers and nurses, who will receive free CEUs. The organization will also host a picnic each day of EMS Week at one of the hospitals throughout the city to offer EMS providers free lunch and a T-shirt.
RICHLAND EMERGENCY SERVICES
Richland Emergency Services in Richland County, South Carolina, celebrates EMS Week every year by taking part in an annual parade in Columbia, South Carolina, that draws about 50 ambulances from across the state. School kids and community members come to Columbia to see the parade and honor EMS crews. The state also does its own memorial bike ride every year, with cyclists riding more than 200 miles from Greenville to Calhoun County to remember EMS professionals who died in the past year.
Participating in the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride
George Rice, Division Manager at Richland County Emergency Services, said his favorite way to recognize EMS Week is riding with the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride, which he hopes to do again in 2016.
“It’s the most emotional thing I have ever been involved in,” says Rice. He started riding in the national ride in 2008 after one of his coworkers suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and died on the scene of a call.
Last year, Rice and dozens of other riders biked from Boston, Massachusetts, to Alexandria, Virginia, stopping along the way to hold memorial services for fallen EMS professionals. As a trumpet player and a member of the National Buglers Association, Rice takes a special role in these memorials. He plays taps to honor his fellow EMS professionals who died on the job.
“I spend 10 days on the road with all these people, just helping these EMS providers get closure,” he says. “We stop to remember all these people, what they do every day and how some of them make the ultimate sacrifice.”
“I do this because I want them to know those sacrifices are remembered. We read the names of each person we lost, we ring a bell and we play taps. I do it because I know we can never do enough for these guys, and I know how much it takes for paramedics and EMTs to lace up their boots every day.”
Advice on how to honor EMS on a tight budget
Rice has been working in EMS for 30 years and organizing EMS Week activities since 1991.
“It’s nice when you provide the team with a luncheon and a handshake or a letter of thanks from the administration but it doesn’t have to be a lot of pomp and circumstance, it just has to be genuine,” he says.
“I think one of the best things you can do when you’re short on budget is work with the hospitals to contact some survivors. We had a cardiac arrest survivor come in and speak to the crew, and it is just priceless. We need to hear from the people we’ve saved because that’s why we keep doing this job.”
Last year, Montclair Ambulance in Montclair, New Jersey, hosted the first annual EMS Week poster contest, which was open to children in grades first through eighth in all Montclair schools. For 2016, Montclair Ambulance will be holding a meme contest, for middle school to high school kids to pull together images, videos and text that honor EMS Week. The team will also host an open house with tours of the ambulances, and local businesses will donate food for the EMS crews all week. A local restaurant is donating gift certificates for each EMT, and the ambulance service will give each team member a portable phone charger.
SUSANNA J. SMITH is a content strategist and freelance writer, who focuses on the future of healthcare and how new technologies and care models are reshaping the healthcare, EMS and public safety industries. Susanna holds a master’s in public health from Columbia University and has worked as a writer, editor and researcher for more than 10 years. You can follow her work at @SusannaJSmith and susannajsmith.com.
Share Your Story We’d love to hear updates and see pictures from your EMS Week 2016 celebrations. Share your EMS Week updates on Twitter @EMSStrong and using hashtags #EMSWeek16 #EMSWeek #EMSStrong or on Facebook, facebook.com/ National.EMS.Week.