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Emergency Medical Services: An Ounce of Prevention

It never ceases to amaze me how intelligent and forward-thinking our forefathers were. Benjamin Franklin is credited with the quote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This from a man who was, among many things, an author, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, diplomat and firefighter. He understood that the city of Philadelphia would be much better off if it had an organized fire department and could educate the citizens about the importance of fire prevention.

In EMS, we have worked hard to implement prevention programs for our communities, such as bystander CPR and first aid, child car-seat inspections and installations, drowning prevention, bicycle-helmet giveaways, trip-and-fall programs for our senior citizens and even vaccinations. We understand what Ben was trying to convey, and in looking at the hazards in our communities, we choose programs we believe will have the greatest impact in preventing injuries and illness.

While community paramedicine, advanced practice paramedic and mobile integrated healthcare are all buzzwords right now, in reality, most of us have been involved in these endeavors for many years.

How many times have you followed up on a patient after they returned home just to make sure they were okay and didn't need anything? Have you gone out and shoveled snow for seniors in your community or maybe built a wheelchair ramp for a resident to make it easier to get in and out of the house?

A neighboring department of mine would go out on a daily basis, check on certain residents just to see if they needed anything; if they didn't, then the crew would just spend some time visiting with the resident.

There are two messages here to catch: The first is that we can do a lot for our communities and our residents, based on specific, local hazards and risks, to improve overall safety and potentially reduce the number of injuries and illnesses. After all, it's not uncommon to hear that fire departments have put themselves out of the business of fighting fire due to prevention programs. So why shouldn’t it be the same for EMS? We have started, as evidenced by the programs outlined above, but we need to continue to work at it.

The second message is that proactive programs and actions by your members can pay great dividends to your organization. We are constantly being barraged by media reports of mismanagement, inexcusable actions and poor customer service by fire and EMS agencies.

However, organizations that take time to reach out to their citizens are doing exactly what Ben said. They're spending just a small amount of time in the present in order to prevent future problems. You can also bet that those citizens—who by the way are also voters—will remember that the next time they go to the polls to vote for an increase for the fire or EMS agency. They, too, understand that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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