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What's on Your Website?

I think it’s fair to say that over the past 20 years, the fire service as a whole has improved upon its advocacy for EMS and EMS prevention in one form or another.

We train our firefighters as EMTs and paramedics to care for the sick and injured. We implement proactive programs like blood pressure checks.

We send firefighters to car-seat technician classes so we can keep our children safer on the road. We provide CPR, first aid, smoke and carbon-monoxide detector education. Some places will even give away smoke detectors and install them.

I think we’re hard pressed to find a fire department that doesn’t offer EMS or some kind of proactive initiative we can categorize as an EMS prevention program.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), however, has nearly demanded that the fire service create and implement what one might consider the mother of all EMS prevention programs: community paramedicine or mobile integrated healthcare (MIH), whatever you wish to call it.

Fire departments are (slowly) beginning to assess the needs in their communities to see where they can proactively affect the greatest impact on the healthcare of their residents. More and more, the fire service is recognizing and awarding innovative departments that are making preventative healthcare a focused priority.

Let’s face it: the fire service ain’t what it used to be. EMS accounts for the majority of a department’s call volume and it has been that way for a long time. MIH has been on the front page for several years now.

So my question is this: Do our websites reflect today’s evolving nature of the fire service to include our EMS mission, and specifically, our EMS prevention mission?

Curious at what my beloved fire service looks like online, I viewed a random sampling of career fire department websites, all of which offered first-response medical services at the EMT-Basic level or higher, some with transport services, some not. I included large urban departments, small rural departments and a few in between.

I looked for the pulse of each department on its site. Was EMS mentioned in the mission statement in any way? Or did the site scream “fire only” with pictures of three-alarmers that most of us get once in a great while? Were there any EMS pictures on the homepage? Did the department’s EMS prevention activities make the homepage? How prominent were they? Was there a dedicated EMS page? Was it easy to find?

In sum, the majority of the small sample I took revealed that despite the trends we’ve been experiencing for several years, the pulse of these departments appeared to be very much fire only. Some sites hardly mentioned EMS. On others, I had to break out a shovel to find an EMS page. EMS prevention programs weren’t highlighted for the communities to see.

A few examples, on the other hand, declared their mission front and center on the homepage. Formerly Chandler (Ariz.) Fire Department, their mission is clear even to the extent that the name of the department gives EMS/healthcare and fire equal billing with “Chandler Fire, Health and Medical.”

Similarly, Clearwater (Fla.) Fire and Rescue’s opening line on their EMS page says, “Each firefighter is EMT certified. Each paramedic is firefighter certified.” Well said.

The transformation of the fire service has already begun. In July 2015, NAEMT published a whitepaper detailing the results of a national survey identifying more than 100 EMS agencies that have begun to research their communities’ needs and to collaborate with other agencies to build innovative programs that address the issues facing healthcare today. Additionally, the IAFC established an Affordable Care Act Task Force to address the MIH movement.

The fire service has been providing EMS and EMS prevention for many years; it’s now embarking on truly transformational initiatives in healthcare. Now is the time to ensure your services and your website reflect the changing environment of a 21st century fire department.

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