Local paramedics John Majorkiewicz and Steve Kenyon work on a patient in the back of an ambulance.

National EMS (Emergency Medical Services) Week will be observed May 21-27. The awareness week gives citizens an opportunity to celebrate their local first responders.

This year’s theme is “EMS Strong – Always in Service.” EMS personnel are the front line for emergency care in the field 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

EMS is the beginning point for many patients and can affect their journey through their continued care, whether it be illness or recovery.

EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) and paramedics are usually first on a scene and are not always sure what to expect. Dispatchers do their best to relay accurate information to the crews responding but oftentimes when people are calling 911 they are rushed and emergency situations can be chaotic.

Probably one of the most important things that first responders bring to a scene is calm. They are focused to deliver quality and timely care with compassion.

No two days are ever the same or predictable for first responders. They are expected to deliver excellent treatment with knowledge and skill. They have to be ready to respond to a variety of incidents – whether it be an active shooter event, an opioid overdose, a cardiac event, a motor vehicle crash, a mass casualty situation and, yes, sometimes just helping grandma up off the floor.

First responders have to be prepared to deliver care under some of the most challenging circumstances out in the field and often are faced with making hard decisions.

First responders take on a tremendous amount of training and education to improve their daily skills because they are people dedicated to helping others. To become an EMT, one must have a high school diploma and successfully complete all sections of the EMT course, which includes didactic, practical and clinical requirements. This takes about six months.

Candidates must also pass the National Registry practical and written exam.

To become a paramedic, one must first be certified as an EMT and then complete a mixture of classroom, in-hospital clinical experience, and some field experience. This process takes another nine or more months after EMT school.

National EMS is a good time to thank the first responders in your community and let them know you appreciate their service.

Cinda Seamon is the fire and life safety educator for the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue.