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National EMS Culture of Safety Conference Set for June 27-28 in D.C.

May 18, 2011

Stakeholders representing nearly every facet of emergency medical services (EMS) will gather in Washington, D.C., to provide input into a national strategy to improve the culture of safety in a profession that is fraught with risk—and risky behavior.
Stakeholders representing nearly every facet of emergency medical services (EMS) will gather in Washington, D.C., to provide input into a national strategy to improve the culture of safety in a profession that is fraught with risk—and risky behavior.

“Safety emerged as a critical issue in almost all the areas that the National EMS Advisory Council (NEMSAC) examined, from patient safety to responder safety to vehicle operations to wellness and more,” said Dia Gainor, past chair of NEMSAC. “It’s a huge problem. As a first step, we decided to address the foundation on which all other safety efforts will be built—the ‘Culture of Safety’ in EMS.”

The conference will be held June 27 and 28 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. In addition to stakeholders, safety experts from a variety of fields and invited guests will be in attendance. The meeting is free and anyone with an interest in the topic is encouraged to attend. Pre-registration is required and space is limited.

The initiative is part of a 36-month cooperative agreement between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with support from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) EMS for Children (EMSC) Program, and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). It stems from a recommendation from NEMSAC, a group created in 2007 to provide guidance to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the NHTSA Office of EMS. The primary objective of the project is to identify the safety issues facing the industry, and develop a strategy for a new culture of safety within EMS.

Representatives from 18 national EMS and fire service organizations serve on the steering committee for the initiative, providing guidance to the process and serving as a sounding board. Another 21 organizations will be invited to send representatives to the meeting, and the public and other interested individuals are also welcome.

“A profession’s—or an organization’s—culture is defined by deep-seated beliefs,” said Sabina Braithwaite, M.D., ACEP’s representative and chair of the steering committee. “EMS needs to develop a strong culture of safety, and our job is to figure out a long-term strategy to make that happen.”

After gathering input at the stakeholder meeting, the steering committee will assist in developing several drafts of a national culture of safety strategy. In June 2012, they will come together again to review the results. The final recommendations from the steering committee will be sent to NEMSAC for review and comment. The final recommendations for a national Culture of Safety Strategy are due to be submitted in 2013.

“We intentionally wanted this to be a comprehensive process,” said Drew Dawson, Director of NHTSA’s Office of EMS.“We did this to get input from every available source and make sure the final strategy is a success.”