National EMS Advisory Council Meets in Washington, DC
September 19, 2012
The recently-appointed members of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National EMS Advisory Council (NEMSAC) met in Washington, DC, on August 29-30. The NEMSAC has been in existence for four years but was operating as a discretionary entity prior to enactment of legislation in June of this year that gives it statutory authority beginning on October 1. The NEMSAC as constituted under law is a 25-member body of stakeholders representing various disciplines within emergency medical services that is appointed by and reports directly to the Secretary of Transportation.
Because many of the NEMSAC members were first-time appointees, the first day of the meeting was spent reviewing ongoing projects at NHTSA’s Office of EMS, which provides NEMSAC with staff support, and other federal agencies involved with EMS, including within the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security. The second day was spent providing an overview of the structure of NEMSAC, reviewing the work and focus areas of the previous NEMSAC, and giving individual NEMSAC members an opportunity to address their colleagues regarding issue(s) they’d like to work on over the course of their two-year appointments.
The NEMSAC appointee representing the volunteer EMS discipline, Katrina Altenhofen, is new to the Council. According to a NHTSA press release from June after she was appointed, Altenhofen has been a volunteer paramedic since 1989, is a founding member of the West Chester First Responders in Washington, IA, has worked with the Iowa Bureau of EMS since 1995, and is the State Emergency Medical Services for Children Program Director. She has also initiated several statewide occupant protection and bicycle safety programs.
In her remarks to her colleagues during the roundtable discussion, Altenhofen expressed that she believes EMS needs to be recognized as an essential service, that there needs to be a standardized level of service provided regardless of whether personnel are volunteer or paid, and that there needs to be a link established between items being produced by NEMSAC and responders on the ground so that the Council’s work can be put into practice. While Altenhofen’s role on NEMSAC is to represent volunteer EMS, many of the other Council members also have a volunteer and/or fire-based EMS background.
The next NEMSAC meeting is expected to be held in December, at which point the minutes from the August meeting will be formally approved and made available to the public. Handouts and presentations from the meeting have been posted at www.EMS.gov.