Letters to the Editor

EMS is so much more than lights and sirens

When I first became an emergency medical technician (EMT), I thought being on an ambulance would be constant excitement: driving with lights and sirens to rescue injured victims of traffic crashes, delivering babies, taking people with heart attacks quickly to the hospital.

Although I am no longer an EMT, I am privileged to work with the emergency medical services (EMS) community as deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Since NHTSA’s founding nearly 50 years ago, supporting local EMS systems has been an integral part of our mission to keep people safe on America’s roadways.

Every day, these highly skilled, dedicated professionals provide expert medical care and — perhaps most important — a hand to hold or a shoulder to lean on.

As we celebrate EMS Week, we also recognize the many people behind the scenes: emergency operators who remain calm during chaos while answering 911 calls, fleet maintenance and logistics personnel who keep ambulances and other response vehicles running and supplied with life-saving equipment, administrative teams who keep the lights on and continuously look for ways to improve services, EMS physicians who perform critical clinical oversight, and educators who prepare caregivers to face whatever they encounter.

But the EMS system also includes each of you. Without members of the public recognizing an emergency, quickly calling 911 and performing appropriate first aid, the work of our EMS personnel becomes much more difficult. So, show your appreciation this week by supporting and thanking your community’s first responders.

Heidi King,

deputy administrator, NHTSA

Washington, D.C.