We owe front line workers a lot, we must accurately count them

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel have played a critical role in helping communities respond to the unprecedented challenges of a global health crisis. Time and time again, we have seen these first responders step up and risk their own health and safety to meet the needs of others.

And yet, despite the essential services they provide, emergency personnel across the country are still significantly and chronically undercounted by current Department of Labor standards. As a result, EMS are left under-resourced and communities are left underserved in emergency situations where resources and availability can mean the difference between life and death. That’s why I introduced the EMS Counts Act. I believe the least we can do to support our first responders is pass legislation that ensures they have the tools they need to do their jobs.

{mosads}EMS is comprised of a diverse group of first responders, including paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) as well as dual-role firefighter/EMTs and firefighter/paramedics. Some workers receive cross-training to take on these dual roles, allowing them to use an expansive skillset in a variety of emergency situations. However, the Department of Labor’s current occupational classification system fails to accurately classify firefighters who primarily serve as EMTs or paramedics.

This problem isn’t academic. It has real-world consequences for these critical front line workers. 

It leads to a proliferation of inaccurate data and information regarding the availability of EMS personnel in communities across the country. In turn, this systematic undercounting of certain workers makes it incredibly challenging for local departments to properly plan for emergencies and appropriately allocate both resources and personnel in situations where they are needed most.

The EMS Counts Act offers a straightforward solution to this problem. This legislation would require the Department of Labor to collect more accurate first responder data by allowing firefighters to identify as cross-trained EMTs or paramedics in official records. This change would lead to better preparation, better planning and, ultimately, better outcomes in emergency situations. And while the EMS Counts Act would directly address problems related to our current public health crisis, its benefits would also extend far beyond the confines of the COVID-19 pandemic. EMS personnel respond to millions of 911 calls each year and are among the first to arrive on the scene in emergencies ranging from car crashes to active shooter situations. These brave individuals also prepare for and respond to a wide range of natural disasters, including Hurricane Ida, which recently had a devastating impact on communities in my own district. As such natural disasters become increasingly prevalent and severe due to the effects of climate change, the importance of collecting this type of accurate and critical data will only continue to grow.

{mossecondads}If nothing else, the events of the past two years have shown us that we must be prepared to face the unexpected. When disaster strikes, we must be ready to respond — we owe it to our first responders and the communities they serve to pass the EMS Counts Act. Numerous organizations that represent firefighters, EMS, EMTs and other first responders support this legislation because they agree it is essential to being able to do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible. I am proud to champion this bipartisan legislation with my fellow Pennsylvanian, Rep. Fred Keller (R), and I am hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join us in working to enact these commonsense, lifesaving changes.

Rep. Susan Wild represents the 7th District of Pennsylvania.

Tags EMS emt Firefighters first responder Front Lines Susan Wild

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