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Emergency Medical Services: Are You Ready for Some?

No, not football.

As I write this month's article, the worst flooding that the state of Colorado has ever experienced is still impacting multiple counties. Five federal USAR teams have been activated and three more have been put on alert status.

We often joke out here that Colorado is fortunate and doesn't have a lot of the natural disasters that other states experience like hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes and severe tornados. However, we've seen significant issues this year with fires and now floods, and it certainly isn't a joking matter.

Many of you see flooding as normal occurrences where you live, so you may ask, "What's with all the fuss?"

The floods have posed significant challenges for fire and EMS agencies, not only in responding to calls, but also by damaging or destroying their stations, equipment, vehicles and employees' homes. How is an agency to function without a station to respond from? With employees unable to get to work due to impassable roads or unwilling to work because they've lost their homes?

What is your contingency plan?

Due to the nature of our business and the public's expectation in times of crisis, we—both volunteer and career agencies—are expected to be there 24/7/365, regardless of what else is going on. This is why you need to be an all-hazards agency, ready to respond to most types of incidents as they occur.

We know we can't be ready for everything, and we certainly can't financially afford it. We do know, though, what hazards exist in our areas, and these should be our focus even if they occur only once every 50 or 100 years. As Mother Nature has shown us around the country this year, she doesn't pay much attention to how many years have passed since the last event.

From an EMS standpoint, we need to be prepared for all of these natural disasters and then some. There are numerous manufactured disasters, such as CBRNE events, that also challenge our ability to provide service. Then throw in an exotic flu, a meningitis outbreak, the whooping cough or even just plain old seasonal flu, and we have a whole new group of issues just waiting to wreak havoc on us.

With our limited funding, we must use our dollars wisely, and we can't be the masters of every potential disaster. We can, however, plan for the most common events that occur where we live, and we can prepare for most of the medical events that can turn into disasters.

Situational awareness is a must; do you have systems in place so you can improvise, adapt and overcome should a disaster strike you? There are resources available on the EMS section resource page as well as from FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, your state and local offices of emergency management and your state and local health departments.

Preparation takes effort, and you certainly don't need to go about it alone. Teamwork and collaboration make most things easier, and you'll have to exercise both of these when the next event occurs. So, take the time, do your homework and make sure you're prepared. Then, you can sit back and be ready for some football.

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