Happy EMS Week 2021! View our daily profiles of exemplary providers and agencies corresponding to each day’s theme below.
Monday: EMS Education Day. Sponsored by The Hero Registry.
Austin Travis County onboards VR training for high-acuity, low-frequency events.
The city of Austin, Texas has partnered with a local startup to develop two virtual reality training programs for first responders. The trainings focus on high-acuity, low-frequency events that EMS personnel train for, but do not frequently respond to, such as mass casualty events and the use of the ambulance bus.
“A first responder will get trained on these skills and then not respond to a disaster for a number of years,” says Commander Keith Noble of Austin-Travis County EMS (ATCEMS). “A ‘just in time’ VR training allows us to refresh those skills quickly, without needing the physical equipment or setup. We can do the training at the station, or at home, and can repeat the training over and over.”
Mass casualty event training is expensive, Noble adds. “You have to schedule physical assets and budget for staff overtime. Normally, that is something that can occur at most once or twice a year.”
Virtual reality training has become even more relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, when in-person events and hands-on trainings have mostly been canceled. “We have to be ready to respond to a crisis, no matter what,” says Noble. “This technology is a good fit for today’s environment where we’re doing everything virtually. It’s safe and it’s effective.”
The development of VR training began more than a year ago through a public-private partnership between the city’s Communication and Technology Management (CTM) department, ATCEMS, and a grant from US Ignite, which aims to partner local governments with financial investments to serve as a catalyst for innovation for smart city services powered by new technologies.
“Part of my job with the city is to focus on emerging technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence and to identify opportunities for partnerships and resources within the community,” says CTM data architect Ted Lehr. “In this case, I was able to bring together researchers from Texas State University and ATCEMS using this grant opportunity to introduce VR as a training option.”
Testing during the development of VR training showed a higher recall of skills and mission-critical tasks, a reduction in errors, and a decrease in task completion time vs. in person training.
“The platform allows you to track training and accuracy of performance. It also introduces elements of gamification and repetition, both of which help with knowledge retention and skill recall,” said Scott Smith, president of Augmented Training Systems.
“Augmented Training Systems did the science, which is an important part in all of this. They did the research, showing that this can improve our training, especially when added to physical trainings. It can be done more frequently, more cheaply, and at the convenience and even desire of the first responders,” said Lehr.
Tuesday: Safety Tuesday. Sponsored by Horton Emergency Vehicles.
Ohio service drives culture change through crew safety equipment and protocols.
At times, EMS can be its own worst enemy when it comes to safety practices. EMS providers think patient first, occasionally at their own peril. This is particularly true in the back of a moving ambulance, where unrestrained crew members work to keep patients comfortable and stable during transports to the emergency room.
The Violet Township (Ohio) Fire and EMS Department has established a progressive, robust culture of safety through improved vehicle restraint systems and clinical care protocols that keep providers safe without sacrificing care quality.
Violet Township EMS provides professional emergency medical and fire service with full time, paid part time, and volunteer firefighters at three stations. The service covers approximately 41 square miles with a population of more than 39,000 residents, in addition to maintaining mutual aid contracts with surrounding departments.
“We had some near misses and minor injuries due to sudden stops and equipment shifts,” says Assistant Chief Jim Paxton. So the agency took part in a research project to identify ways to redesign the back of the trucks with crew safety at the forefront. Working with Horton Emergency Vehicles, the department reconfigured its seating and restraints and changed clinical protocols to ensure crew could remain seated and belted at all times during transport.
Rather than feeling forced to adapt new practices, staff was included in decision making and system design throughout the process.
“We want the men and women who are on the street to have some say,” says Paxton. If we’re not collectively making it user-friendly for them, then it’s a failure automatically. It has to belong to them. We’re not where we want to be yet, but we’re getting there. It’s very much a work in progress. You’re never really done.”
For a special EMS World podcast on Violet Township’s move to safer EMS practices visit www.emsworld.com/podcast/1225657/road-safer-transports
Wednesday: EMS For Children Day. Sponsored by EMS World Expo.
EMS crew reunites with ‘safe surrender’ baby they delivered in their ambulance.
An EMT and a paramedic in California got to experience two uplifting events within the last year that few crews get to witness. On March 5, 2021, paramedic Marian Anson and EMT Michelle Guidotti were VIP guests to an adoption party for a baby boy they delivered in the back of their ambulance last year.
“While traveling down the road, I got to deliver my first baby,” said Anson, assisted by Guidotti. “It was definitely a little nerve-wracking, but one of the most exciting days I’ve had. It was amazing! Getting to hear him cry after was beautiful.”
On arrival at the ER, the baby was given up through California’s Safe Surrender Program, a law passed in 2001 that allows a parent or custodian to take a newborn to a hospital, fire station or other safe place for adoption, confidential and free of charge. The next day, he was taken home by a foster family.
The adopting family contacted Hall Ambulance to invite the crew to Oliver’s adoption party at their home.
“Marian and Michelle were his first friends in the world and knowing that he was cared for by them really bridges that gap from his life before meeting us, as short as that may be, to his life with us,” said Oliver’s adopted mother.
A themed celebration featured yard art, photo booth, and Siren the Rescue Dog passing out cuddle-sized versions of the Hall Ambulance mascot. Oliver received an activity table and handmade plush-toy version of the ambulance he rode in, complete with the unit number.
“It was such an honor not only to be able to witness Oliver’s birth first-hand but also to witness his adoption ceremony,” Guidotti said. “Holding Oliver and seeing his smiling face will always be a moment in time that I will deeply cherish. Every call has the potential to have a bad ending, but I am so grateful Oliver’s new story is just the beginning.”
“Marian and Michelle are a part of Oliver’s history, and what an exciting way to start a journey,” said his mother. “We will definitely have a great story to tell him when he is older.”
Thursday: Save a Life Day (CPR and Stop the Bleed). Sponsored by North American Rescue.
Georgia teenage brothers team with EMS crew to save their grandmother’s life.
In DeKalb County, Georgia, quick thinking by family members and EMS crews helped control a grandmother’s severe bleeding until help arrived.
On March 13, 2021, DeKalb Fire Squad 16 and AMR Medic 47 in Decatur, GA, responded to the home of a 67-year-old woman experiencing severe blood loss from her dialysis graft. Upon arrival they found the patient was suffering from severe bleeding from the site with visible blood loss.
Prior to their arrival, the woman’s grandsons Nathaniel and Talib, ages 13 and 15, were able to apply pressure on her wound with towels and slow the loss of blood while the older brother called 9-1-1. The brothers followed instructions from dispatch and kept younger children on the scene calm while waiting for EMS to arrive.
Once the crews were on the scene, medics took over and transported the woman to the hospital, where she made a full recovery. On April 15, 2021, the responding crew met with the boys and acknowledged their heroics.
“I could jump over the moon, that’s how proud I am of them,” Barbara Wilks told local news affiliate CBS 46. “Just looking at them, I feel like squeezing them and never letting them go.”
At a March 13 event, the first responders presented the teenagers with certificates and plaques. It was clear to the responding crews that the quick intervention by the young teens helped keep their grandmother alive until DeKalb Fire and AMR medics could arrive.
“These two children saved this grandmother’s life,” said responding paramedic Dean Steiner. “We all agreed that had it not been for those kids, that grandma would have bled out on scene.”
Friday: EMS Recognition. Sponsored by EMS World.
From tragedy to inspiration: Wife of fallen medic launches foundation in honor of EMS personnel.
Dawn Witherspoon is president and founder of the For Paul Foundation, a 501 C-3 nonprofit that arose from the line-of-duty death of her husband Paul Besaw, 36. Besaw and fellow paramedic Lahiri Garcia were killed in a 2017 ambulance crash in Jupiter, Florida.
“Paul was the guy you called when you needed help on a call,” Witherspoon says. “He would always answer eagerly no matter the time and would never pass judgement.” Paul’s daughter was just 5 years old at the time of his death.
The For Paul Foundation aims to continue Besaw’s legacy by honoring, supporting, and appreciating paramedics, EMTs, firefighters and all EMS personnel and their families.
The foundation’s initiatives include a scholarship program that’s currently local, but will become national next year, says Witherspoon. High school seniors who wish to become EMTs, paramedics or firefighters are eligible for one of three $1,500 scholarships. A Heroes’ Dinner on June 5 is open to all active and retired EMS and first responders. A monthly “Hero Highlights” program spotlights an EMS provider with special recognition.
Starting in June, the foundation will host a Line of Duty Death Family support group. Monthly online meetings will bring together family members who have lost loved ones in the line of duty, and it’s hoped the program will expand across the nation and world.
Visit www.theforpaulfoundation.org/ for more information.