Natural and man-made disasters can cause devastating injuries for large numbers of people and catastrophic losses to communities. Disasters are diverse and damaging – ranging from the environmental, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods and earthquakes, to the man-made, active shooters, explosions, train derailments and chemical, biological or radiological events.

Disaster-prepared

When disasters occur, the public expects emergency medical care to be available quickly and expert care provided. In this field, the care is delivered by emergency medical services – tens of thousands of emergency medical technicians (EMT) and paramedics who serve the public as part of our nation’s emergency medical services (EMS) system.

EMS has demonstrated its essential role in helping communities in their times of greatest need.The much-admired response to the Boston Marathon bombings. The careful handling and transport of medical workers infected with the Ebola virus. The skilled and compassionate care of children injured in the horrific 2016 school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tenn. The EMTs, paramedics and firefighters who responded to victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, even as they were getting word that their own homes were at risk. The response to victims of active shooter incidents across the country.

The ability of EMS to meet the daily needs of their communities and respond to disasters, public health crises and mass casualty incidents depends upon sufficient resources and preparation. EMS readiness requires planning, coordination, education and training, as well as proper resources.

“The ability of EMS to meet the daily needs of their communities and respond to disasters, public health crises and mass casualty incidents depends upon sufficient resources and preparation.”

Community safeguard

“The role of EMS in responding to the needs of our patients, communities and nation cannot be overstated and must be embraced as an integral safeguard for our country,” said Dennis Rowe, President of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT). “EMS is highly mobile, capable of rapid response and an essential component of preparedness and public health. Communities have varied EMS delivery models – public, private, fire-based, hospital-based and volunteer. Regardless of delivery model, the citizens, EMS practitioners and other first responders must work together to save lives.”

The variety and unpredictability of where, when and how events will occur, as well as the potential scope of people impacted, are challenging. Responders will almost certainly need to adapt during a disaster. But when disaster strikes, it’s very difficult to improvise an entire plan. It is important to create an incident plan, and ensure personnel are trained to execute the plan, before the disaster happens.

The role of EMS in our nation’s disaster response plans is vital to ensure the public health and safety of our communities. It is a fundamental component of community resilience.