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FOR RELEASE: May 11, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Workers Offer Hope

May 14 - 20 is National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week with the theme New Century, New Hope. The Oklahoma State Department of Health joins others in praising the EMS system and the workers who dedicate themselves to saving the lives of others every day.

EMS is a system of care for victims of sudden and serious illness or injury. It depends on the availability and coordination of many different services, ranging from the public's ability to recognize and respond correctly to an emergency, to a network of emergency responders and workers providing highly specialized care. Some of the critical elements of the system include the 9-1-1- emergency number, emergency dispatchers, search and rescue teams, fire and police services, ambulance services and definitive hospital emergency treatment.

Oklahomans know first-hand the importance of EMS workers and a good EMS system. Our recent experiences dealing with disasters like the April 19, 1995, bombing and the May 3, 1999, tornado demonstrate the value of quality EMS services. Health officials say streamlined access and rapid delivery of emergency care may provide the extra seconds needed to help save a life.

In 1999 Oklahoma had 190 licensed ambulance services and 123 first response agencies. Currently there are 8,518 licensed emergency medical technicians at the basic, intermediate, and paramedic levels. There are more than 22,700 first responders certified in the state of Oklahoma.

Also in Oklahoma, more than 1,000 licensed ambulances are in use with an average response time of six minutes and 37 seconds. Services provided include basic, intermediate, paramedic and specialized mobile intensive care services.

Some of the future goals planned for EMS at the national level include making 9-1-1 a nationwide emergency telephone number and having calls for emergency medical help provide the exact location information of the caller. In the next two to three years this will include calls made from a cellular telephone. Today it is very important to know the exact location where help is needed when calling from a cellular telephone.

EMS Week is an excellent opportunity for communities to thank the dedicated men and women who provide such critical services.

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