Discovering the New Norm for EMS Providers

Blog by Tim Holman, BA, EMTP, CFO, EMSI
Chief of German Township, Fire & EMS (Clark County, Ohio)

EMS services across the country are discovering the New Norm for EMS providers. Business as usual is out the door and the challenges facing managers and providers have never been tougher. Here are a few issues to consider.

As budgets shrink, staffing issues will increase. Shifts will be running with fewer people. Complicating operations, even more back-to-back calls will place greater demand on the service. Mutual aid is an option but many services will be unable to assist due to their own call volumes and short staffing issues.

Call volumes in general will continue to rise. Some citizens will use EMS as their only source for entering the healthcare system. New healthcare laws will make this worse, not better.

Ambulance manufactures will see a trend of downsizing units. The large medium duty ambulances will be bypassed for smaller, less costly units that are more economical to purchase and operate.

Threats to EMS providers will continue to escalate. Emergency scenes will become more violent as citizens become more and more frustrated in the economy and social issues. Assaults and attacks on responders will increase at an alarming rate.

EMS systems will search for new and better ways of doing business. This will require significant change and many providers will dig their heals in to resist the change.

This may appear to be a bleak picture for EMS. But organizations can position themselves to thrive. EMS is made up of problem solvers. There will be no room for those who are negative and constantly complain. You will either be part of the solution or part of the problem. If you are part of the problem you will probably be asked to leave the organization.

There should be no room for those who just get by. Organizations should staff themselves with the very best. EMTs will be forced to decide if they truly want to contribute. When hiring, managers will need to select the best of the best. They can’t afford to settle for a warm body with an EMT certificate. They will need to select those that will help prepare the organization for the demands of the future.

It’s imperative that leaders train their staff, not only in EMS tactics but, in leadership, communication, change management and customer service. They will need these skills to help improve the organization. In addition EMTs will need advanced training in situational awareness, de-escalating skills, personal defense and yes, even firearms training.

New approaches for dealing with non-emergency calls will need to become more innovative. Providers must take a stake in finding solutions to these problems and help promote the change process. No longer can it just be placed in managements lap. Everyone in the organization must work-together, stay positive and work for the common good of the organization. The new norm is here. How will you respond?

About the Author
Tim Holman speaks and trains on a variety of business, fire and EMS management and leadership issues. Holman specializes in providing fire and EMS officer development programs. He was the Fire Chief magazine Fire Chief of the Year for 2002. He has also been appointed to the commission on Chief Fire Officer Designation. For more information on Holman, please check online at

Contact us for more information