EMS Week is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about the important work that EMS practitioners do in their communities. Here are some ideas for reaching out to elected officials, the media and the general public.
1. Host an open house. Give the community a closer look at your EMS station. Invite your elected officials, the chamber of commerce, other business and civic leaders, community organizers, the media and your colleagues in law enforcement, the 911 communications center, the public health department, and other city departments you may interact with. Plan a simple menu of appetizers or have a barbecue to entice your guests to come and mingle.
You can also invite Boy Scout or Girl Scout troops or schools groups to come meet their local EMS practitioners and check out a real ambulance.
2. Host a public safety or injury prevention event. Use EMS Week to educate your community about health- and safety-related issues. Hold free blood pressure checks at a mall or grocery store, a child passenger seat safety check or a bicycle and pedestrian safety event for kids.
3. Teach CPR. Lots of EMS agencies have come up with clever, attention-grabbing methods of teaching hands-only CPR over the past couple of years.
One strategy is mass CPR training events in partnership with the American Red Cross, in which hundreds or even thousands of people are trained simultaneously. A few years ago, Arlington Fire Department and Arlington Medical Center trained nearly 4,600 eighth graders at Cowboy Stadium, earning them a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Their record stood for several years until 2013, when a group in Germany trained 11,800 students from over 200 schools.
CPR flash mobs at malls or in public plazas are always fun. In Santa Barbara, AMR and the Santa Barbara Fire Deployment tried "guerilla CPR"– they pulled up, lights and sirens waling, to a busy intersection in the city, pulled out a mannequin, switched on the BeeGees’ "Stayin' Alive." They started compression-only CPR, and invited surprised onlookers to participate.
4. Offer ride-alongs. Invite local, state and federal elected officials to experience EMS first-hand. The more they understand EMS, the more receptive they will be to listening to EMS needs and suggestions.
5. Get to know your local media. Reach out to local newspaper and TV reporters and editors. You can send a press release about your EMS Week events. But a personal invitation to health or police reporters and editors for a tour of the station or a ride-along may get a better response.
If you appreciated a certain article a reporter did, let them know when you invite them. If you're launching any Mobile Integrated Healthcare or Community Paramedicine initiatives, this can be a great time to get the word out.
Building relationships now with your local media will pay dividends when a big story breaks. They will know who to call, and will be more likely to portray EMS accurately if they've been educated about EMS when they're not under deadline pressure.
6. Host a Survivor Summit. Or, like FDNY EMS calls their event, a Second Chance brunch. Survivors of sudden cardiac arrest, near drowning or serious car accidents whose lives have been saved by EMS have a powerful message to share. Reuniting survivors with their rescuers is a moving, motivating experience for EMS crews. With the survivor's permission, invite the media.
Identifying survivors can take time because of privacy laws. But hospital administrators are often willing to pass along a message on your behalf. While some survivors will not wish to participate, many others may welcome, and even cherish, the opportunity to publicly thank their rescuers.
7. Use social media to get the word out. Promote EMS Week-related content on your website, Facebook and Twitter. Promote upcoming events. Take lots of pictures and post those afterward too.