How to market your EMS agency

Marketing is something that should be a part of our normal business

Looking back over 2010, we've seen continued cuts in funding to all areas of public safety. From reducing staffing, putting off replacement of equipment, and cutting pay, cities are seeking ways to save money.

The brave sacrifices made on September 11 have long since been forgotten as financial concerns come to the forefront. As politicians seek to keep short-term promises to gain reelection and balance budgets, public safety is now facing the same budget cuts as other agencies.

Any economic turn-around will not occur over night, and now that cuts to public safety are seen as "the norm" we will face the challenge in the year ahead of less funding and more demands.

In 2010, "Obama-care" passed and that may have a huge impact on EMS. However, no one in the public safety field yet truly knows the specific effects it will have on the demands and reimbursement for our services.

Emergency medical services may see a rise in calls if there is a significant change in how the delivery of care is provided, or if hospitalization durations are changed. We may see a change in the level of providers, or even see hospital providers doing routine visits to patients' homes.

Finally, there are things the fire service and EMS must begin to undertake in the coming New Year. We need to aggressively market ourselves. Marketing is something that should be a part of our normal business. This means taking every opportunity to reach out to the media with weekly media releases.

Your public information officer is not just the person giving information at an incident; they also need to be adept at turning incidents into learning situations for the media (smoke alarms, driving safety, car seats, and disease prevention).

The PIO needs to generate stories on a regular basis to keep the emergency services in the media spotlight on a regular basis. We cannot sit behind closed apparatus doors and hide. If fire and EMS does not talk about their valuable service and what we provide, no one will do it for us.

When it comes to the fire service, it seems we're continuing to accept having preventable firefighter deaths. More than 55 percent of fatalities were as a result of cardiac arrest or stroke.

We must ask ourselves why we are willing to accept this as "part of normal business" and why we're not taking action to stop these needless deaths. These can be prevented or at least decreased by the implementation of three things:

  • Annual medical physicals that meet NFPA 1582 Standard on comprehensive occupational medical program for fire departments. In addition, the physicians conducting these medical exams need to be keenly aware of the real demands placed on firefighters.
  • Requiring physical fitness to be part of each member's personal responsibility.
  • Implementation of an incumbent physical ability test to ensure each member is physically able to perform the arduous job of firefighting.

These simple things will help ensure firefighters are physically able to safely undertake firefighting operations. These are the same things we require of all soldiers in the military. We would not allow anyone in the military to operate in combat environments if they would be putting themselves, fellow soldiers, or the mission at risk.

Yet, the fire service is willing to accept these risks daily with members who have known underlying health or cardiac issues. Someday, likely in the near future, leaders may be held personally liable for taking these risks. As with other occupations, if the fire service does not address these preventable deaths, the court system will take that role.

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