Federal survey reveals high public trust in EMS services, providers

The vast majority of respondents to the NHTSA survey said they considered EMS to be an essential government service


By Laura French

WASHINGTON — A survey conducted by a federal public safety agency found that an overwhelming majority of respondents felt confident in the EMS agencies and providers responding to their emergency calls.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) survey, which was administered in 2016 and 2017 with results released this year, found that 99% of respondents were very confident or somewhat confident that EMS providers would know what to do.

Additionally, 92% of respondents said they considered EMS to be an essential government service.

More than 5,400 people responded to the survey, which measured public attitudes and beliefs about emergency medical services and the 911 system.

About 57% of those who took the survey said they had made an emergency call at least once, with 54% saying their most recent call had been to request an ambulance, rescue squad or EMS.

When it came to using 911, the survey revealed some gaps between the public’s expectations and current capabilities of the system. More than 90% of respondents expected pre-arrival emergency medical dispatch services and instructions upon calling 911, and more than half said they didn’t know if 911 dispatchers could locate them without being told the caller’s location.

“The implementation of 911 programs across the country is one of the most successful national public-safety initiatives of the last century,” said NHTSA National 911 Program Coordinator Laurie Flaherty. “The results of this survey reinforce how important it will be to continue that success by upgrading 911 systems with modern technologies to enhance safety and meet the public’s expectations.”

In responding to questions about funding, about 77% of survey takers said communities should fund EMS in the same way as police and fire agencies, and 72% said they were willing to pay at least $5 more in fees or taxes per year to fund EMS equipment and training. About 69% said they were willing to pay that amount to enable 911 services to locate callers faster.

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