EMS strategic planning?

CarolinaFireJournal - David Hesselmeyer
David Hesselmeyer
10/10/2014 -

I decided to search the Internet for EMS Strategic planning. The results that flashed on my screen informed me that there were only two to three pages of actual results that fit the topic I was researching. The Internet can be a great source at times, but in some instances it can provide too little information.


Why does this matter? EMS is part of a large medical system and culture. Due to the Affordable Care Act and other recent legislation, the environment in this medical system is extremely dynamic. Changes are occurring regularly and the future is uncertain. Facing these changes early on can be a very effective decision.

What is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning is a managerial tool to ensure that priorities are set and revised, proper resources are being allocated for those priorities, and work outcomes of the agency are reviewed.

Let’s look at these parts more in depth.

First, priorities are being set and revised. This can be looked at as the triage system. When we as providers perform triage, we are placing certain people and their conditions before others. This is to attempt the best outcome for the injured party. This is the same idea at the agency level.

Second, proper resources are in place and allocated. This is as simple as our dispatch sending units to calls based on the priorities and ensuring that all issues — i.e. calls for service are handled. We are focusing on meeting the needs of the people we serve.

Finally, review of outcomes is needed to ensure that we are meeting our goals and objectives. This is accomplished when we perform Quality Assurance or a review of the measurable goals that we set. If we meet these, we can add other goals and maintain them. If we are not meeting these, we can attempt to find alternative options to meet these goals.

Do You Participate in Strategic Planning?

Unfortunately we, as a profession, do not participate in strategic planning very much. Some non-EMS agencies I work with have strategic plans that cover five year periods and are reviewed annually. Go back and google “EMS strategic plan.” You will notice there are very few strategic plans. Now google “North Carolina Health Department Strategic Plan.” You will notice that in the EMS search there are few reports; however, there are several pages of results showing actual strategic plans for health departments in North Carolina alone.

Furthermore, have you ever participated in strategic planning for your EMS agency? You may have been asked to participate in a focus group, answer a survey or serve on a committee.

If your agency does perform strategic planning, ask yourself why you have not shared this information online, at expos and other events. Others may be in need of assistance in this process and you may have that answer or be able to assist. Be proud of your work. I am sure it was not easy to do.

Another thought about this topic is that often you will consider or have to implement ideas that are less than ideal. Being realistic is important. We cannot risk the future based on our unwillingness to consider options that are all less than ideal. But if you will go through the process and recommend one option more than others, then you have a chance to alter the future in a positive way. Otherwise it may be left up to jurisdictional managers (e.g. county manager) or commissioners that do not know how decisions today may affect us tomorrow.

Another important aspect of this planning process is the possible need for agency-wide change. Services are now changing more agency-wide than ever before. I could never imagine five years ago that the county would be providing a paramedic to my volunteer fire department to go along with our staff, which are firefighter/EMTs, to be able to provide fast, efficient, and high level care. By participating in strategic planning we can see when we may need to look at agency-wide changes and be better prepared to know why we need them so we make efficient and proper choices when we have to.


Today you have a choice to add strategic planning to your organization to become more efficient and to serve better. If you already do this planning then share it with others. I am sure they will be greatly appreciative. Remember that it is the highest form of flattery when someone wants to use your work as the basis of theirs. Use this process and constantly review what you are doing. Let’s try to be as efficient as possible. The life you save may be
your own.

Until next time, be safe!

David Hesselmeyer has been in emergency services for 15 years. Currently he is a firefighter, rescue technician, paramedic, and emergency management coordinator Type I. He is the owner and primary consultant with Emergency Preparedness Consulting (EPC). EPC contracts with emergency services agencies, health departments, fire departments, EMS agencies, and non profits to assist in risk assessments, plan writing, plan revision, exercise development, etc. He currently volunteers with Buies Creek Fire Rescue and works part time with Pitt County EMS. If you have any questions or concerns about this please feel free to contact Hesselmeyer at [email protected].

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Issue 34.1 | Summer 2019

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