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At the Resource for EMS - National Culture of EMS Safety

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   This ongoing feature provides information on free resources accessible to first responder departments nationwide. This includes training, equipment, and funding opportunities that focus on rural and small to midsize communities.

National Culture of EMS Safety

   The EMS community has been identified as working in a “high risk” industry, with far-reaching implications for the safety of its members and the public. In 2009, the National Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council (NEMSAC) recommended the creation of a standardized “Culture of Safety” within EMS to implement concrete safety guidelines applicable to the diverse agencies that provide emergency medical services. The strategy is focused around six major elements, designed to create an environment of empowerment, knowledge, inclusiveness, and improvement (1):

   •   Advancement of “Just Culture” values in an EMS context
   •   Coordinated support and resources
   •   A national data system for responder and patient safety
   •   Evolution of the EMS education system
   •   Promulgation of safety standards
   •   Incident reporting and investigation.

   The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is providing leadership of the effort and its 18-member Steering Committee in collaboration with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) EMS for Children (EMSC) Program.

   The 36-month process, which is scheduled for completion in 2013, has included four drafts, a conference, and several opportunities for public review. The full timeline and milestones achieved may be viewed here, beginning with the Committee selection in 2010. Panel discussions and interviews with key attendees from the 2011 National EMS Culture of Safety Strategy Conference are available on the MedicCast website; the recordings cover many of the early strategies and philosophy of project.

   The draft of the final report, issued in December of 2012, may be downloaded here, and the final version of the strategy is expected to be released within the upcoming months. Its guidelines are designed to make EMS safety a national priority, and it includes an analysis of the current factors, such as internal cultural attitudes and public misperceptions, that make promoting worker safety and care within the industry a challenge. A key finding in the report comes from the current difference in response to EMS accidents involving transport injuries, which have well-defined, national reporting systems, and non-traffic-based injuries to workers, which do not have a universal tracking system that captures the associated causes. These issues stem from a lack of standardization as fundamental as the definition of terms such as “call,” “run,” “response,” and “incident” in different EMS agencies, and the lack of a centralized system for collecting associated data such as hours on duty and miles traveled during a shift. Through the implementation of the collaborative guidelines published in the Culture of Safety report, correcting these concerns and lowering the risk of injury to EMS workers and the communities they serve is an achievable goal.

Questions or comments on the project can be directed to

1.   NEMSAC Review Draft, 2012

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