A report prepared by New York University’s Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response (CCPR) highlighting deficiencies in funding, training, and equipment to enable emergency medical services (EMS) personnel to respond to a major terrorist attack has prompted United States Senator Susan M. Collins of Maine to sponsor federal legislation that will improve the preparedness of the EMS system through more effective coordination of Federal programs.

The report – which reflects the outcome of a national roundtable of EMS and emergency official held by the Center in December 2004 and a review of recent federal and independent reports – found a number of critical issues facing EMS systems in homeland security preparedness. These critical issues include a lack of standards dictating how many EMS personnel should have protective equipment and how many should participate in mass casualty exercises; inadequate preparedness training for EMS personnel; insufficient homeland security funding devoted to EMS systems; and exclusion of EMS leadership from many emergency planning efforts.

The report can be found online at www.nyu.edu/ccpr .

Tim Raducha-Grace, Director of Research and Programs for NYU’s Center, said, “Emergency medical services personnel – paramedics and EMTs – are critical resources in the event of a major terrorist attack or catastrophic event. Yet, while the skills for delivering emergency medical care are well honed and their courage is unquestioned, they receive inadequate support to safeguard themselves in a perilous environment. If EMS personnel are not prepared for a terrorist attack, their ability to provide medical care and transport victims will be compromised. There will be an inadequate medical first response.”

Senator Collins, who is the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees first responder programs, said, “The excellent report released today by the Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response at New York University underscores the need for a comprehensive, coordinated emergency medical services system. Unfortunately, for the past twenty years, Federal support for EMS has been both scarce and uncoordinated. The report confirms that EMS has been shortchanged by the federal government. This alarming trend has to be reversed. Our bill is the first step in that process.”

Senator Collin’s legislation – The Emergency Medical Services Support Act – will offer important, concrete steps for correcting the problems that have persisted since 9/11 by coordinating the federal agencies involved with EMS. This coordination effort will address concerns that EMS providers are currently falling between the cracks of various federal programs.

“Senator Collins deserves to be commended,” said Tim Raducha-Grace. “Her proposed legislation is welcome news. It will go a long way towards ensuring the best possible emergency medical response in the event of a major terrorist attack and routine emergencies.” Among the key recommendations in the CCPR report are:

  • Legislation to establish a federal interagency committee on EMS to coordinate programs and improve preparedness
  • The establishment of EMS-specific terrorism preparedness standards and guidelines by federal agencies
  • Increased homeland security funding for EMS systems and personnel.

In response to the events of September 11, 2001, the US Congress and the Department of Homeland Security provided funding to New York University to create a University-wide, cross-disciplinary efforts to improve preparedness and response capabilities to terrorist threats and catastrophic events. Drawing on each of its 14 schools, NYU created the Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response and initiated projects ranging from medical capacity during crises to legal issues related to security to first responder trauma response, among other projects, with the intent of generating research-based recommendations for public decision-making.

New York University, located in the heart of Greenwich Village, was established in 1831 and is one of America’s leading research universities. It is one of the largest private universities, and has among the greatest number of international students, and sends more students to study abroad than any other college or university in the U.S. Through its 14 schools and colleges, NYU conducts research and provides education in the arts and sciences, law, medicine, business, dentistry, education, nursing, the cinematic and dramatic arts, music, public administration, social work, and continuing and professional studies, among other areas.

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