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Educating the Public: Why EMS has failed and Ways to fix the problem

Educating the Public: Why EMS has failed and Ways to fix the problem

The following is a guest blog posting written by Jamie Biddle, a student in the EKU EMS program. 

For years we have watched as fire departments have educated the public and how what they are doing has almost put them out of a job. Now just imagine if EMS agencies would provide some type of public education and what it would do to for communities. While it probably would not drop our call volume it would allow for the public to better understand what we do and how they can ‘help’ us make our job easier and possibly even provide our patients with a better outcome. You see stories on the news all of the time about how 4 year old Susie called 911 when her grandma passed out; but has anyone ever thought about how she learned to dial 911 and when she should? The sad truth is probably not but if we did we may be able to save some other grandmas. But the problem is not just with young children not knowing why and when to call 911 but also with older children and even some adults. Just because there are infomercials on the television about why to call 911 when you have chest pains does not mean you or anyone else will. That is why we have failed because without proper education from the people who see these situations and outcomes everyday people are less likely to call for our help, even when they need us most.

You should now understand why it is necessary to educate the public, but where do you start and what do you educate them about? I would make the recommendation of starting small in your own community such as at schools, church groups, or even your local boys and girls club. You could then work on tailoring your message to the audience for elementary school students it could be as simple as showing them the ambulance and telling them what you do and how we help them if they ever have to be in the ambulance. For middle school and high school students could be teaching them CPR and first aid or you could go out on career day and show them what you do with the help of students who volunteer to be victims. While adult groups could focus more on recognizing the signs/symptoms of strokes and heart attacks and why they should not wait to make the call when they notice the signs/symptoms because the longer you wait the lesser the chance we will be able to help them.

Now that you have some general ideas on where you can go and what you can do when you speak to the public where do you get started? Well the answer to that is very simple you get started in your community many times it is just as simple as asking if you could speak to local groups about what your role is in the community and how you can help the people in the community when they need you. Another idea is to look for referrals there are many events every year hosted by organizations which would be more than happy to have you come and speak. But I think the most important piece of advice for any organization to go out and educate the public for the first time is have fun and realize that you can make a difference within your community.


Brendston, K., (January 28, 2011). Speaking Up To Make A Difference. EMSWorld. Retrieved from:

Stewart, M., (June 5, 2015). EMS can make difference minutes after heart attack. Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved from:

Published on July 10, 2015

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