DHS praises dedication of EMS providers

The DHS Office of Health Affairs (OHA) recently praised emergency medical services (EMS) providers during National EMS Week for their service and protection in dangerous environments to keep the U.S. secure.

Kathryn Brinsfield, the OHA's acting assistant secretary for health affairs and the chief medical officer for the DHS, said that EMS providers are front-line personnel who play an important role in the homeland security of the nation. She said the OHA supports EMS providers to ensure they are prepared for events ranging from small incidents to large-scale disasters.

"We do this by collaborating with our partners in the federal, state, and local sectors to identify gaps and implement solutions that coordinate and strengthen the medical preparedness and response activities throughout the department," Brinsfield said. "Additionally, through collaboration with federal, state, and local partners, our office drafts guidance to provide EMS providers with best practices and lessons learned on a variety of topics."

The OHA's Chemical Defense Program recently developed training for local communities on how to respond to a mass chemical exposure incident. The OHA also recently hosted a stakeholder engagement to discuss best practices for responding to active shooter incidents and improvised explosive devices.

"This meeting provided an opportunity for stakeholders to share ideas that can be implemented within their respective jurisdictions," Brinsfield said. "Additionally, OHA is working with its federal partners to further develop draft guidance on the medical response to improve survivability during these incidents."

Brinsfield said EMS providers are an important part of the community and recommended the providers take care of themselves as well.

"While they protect us, I encourage them to take care of themselves, both physically and mentally," Brinsfield said. "The stresses EMS providers take on are heavy, and while it is admirable that they accept these responsibilities, it is also admirable to seek help when needed. Stay healthy - your dedication and service is a valuable piece of our nation's security!"

National EMS Week 2014 took place on May 18-24.