A statement from HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Nicole Lurie, M.D.
May 21, 2013 - This week, our nation honors emergency medical service (EMS) professionals for their dedication to public service. As the HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response, I know how important their role is in disasters. As a primary care physician, I know how important their work is every day. People rely on EMS in disasters and other public health emergencies, as well as for personal emergency care.
We know that our health care system must be ready at a moment’s notice to respond to threats to the public’s health. Time and time again, disaster after disaster, EMS responders across the country have risen to that challenge, whether the community is impacted by a hurricane, wildfire, flood, bombing, chemical plant explosion, or pandemic flu. In recent disasters, we have witnessed EMS responders providing triage on the scene in Boston after the bombing, helping evacuate nursing homes in New York state after Hurricane Sandy, and caring for injured or ill patients as they were transported to hospitals in Texas after a plant explosion. Dozens of EMS responders give their lives every year in the service to our communities and our nation. Those who remain continue to take pride in being the people we can depend on even in difficult and dangerous situations.
To become better prepared, the nation is moving increasingly toward building coalitions bringing together EMS providers, public health agencies, hospitals, nursing homes, dialysis centers, health care providers, home health agencies, emergency management agencies, and local businesses. EMS is a critical partner in our health care system, so I encourage EMS professionals to take an active role in helping communities forge and strengthen these partnerships. Given the regular interaction EMS responders have with these organizations in the community, EMS is uniquely positioned to bring potential partners together to plan for and minimize the impact that disasters have on health.
Disaster response and recovery requires a whole community working together. It’s one mission, one team. EMS is a crucial part of that team, there when every minute counts.