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Recognizing Our Frontline Medical Providers

Posted by Dr. J.D. Polk, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs & Acting Chief Medical Officer

This week, we celebrate and honor the federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal Emergency Medical Service (EMS) practitioners serving communities all across the country. Every day, we see paramedics or firefighters, but many of us do not actually stop to think about what they do or thank them for their service until a crisis occurs. National EMS Week is the perfect opportunity to recognize and salute every man and women serving in emergency medical services for their tireless service.

There is a kinship and a bond that goes with being an EMS provider. When others are rushing out of the burning building, EMS personnel are rushing in, completely aware of the dangers they face. I have vivid memories from my own EMS days, from crawling on my back across the broken glass of the windshield in a smashed car, and attempting to intubate the entrapped patient, to the hum of the helicopter rotors as we circled a scene to assess the landing area, with the strobe lights of EMS vehicles illuminating the night sky. Each time, I pause at the sight of a black band around the badge of a firefighter, medic, or law enforcement officer, a reminder of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Within the Department of Homeland Security, we have our own EMS personnel. Emergency medical services cover the spectrum of medical and trauma care and DHS EMS is no exception. In addition to providing the care offered by local EMS systems, most DHS EMS personnel are also law enforcement officers, providing workforce protection, basic life support, tactical combat care and care under fire. When DHS was created, and later the Office of Health Affairs was formed, we collaborated with the Emergency Medical Services Training and Education Advisory Committee to ensure sufficient resources are available, and ensure that DHS EMS systems are able to work together, and share resources and best practices. It is a job we take seriously.

EMS providers are on the frontlines in the homeland security enterprise. They are the first to respond, assess, and engage after an incident. To all EMS personnel, we thank you for everything that you do, and for your continued vigilance in the mission to save lives and ease suffering, and for your role in making our nation safer, more secure and more resilient.

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