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The EMS Strike Teams are the responsibility of the Regional EMS Councils and fall under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Bureau of EMS. The fundamental purpose of the EMS Strike Teams is to provide transportation of patients from one location to another in circumstances where local EMS agencies are overwhelmed and unable to accomplish this task without additional resources. EMS Strike Teams may only be activated for a “team” response by the Bureau of EMS, at which time all activities of the EMS Strike Team are coordinated locally by the Regional EMS Council. Upon activation, the specific mission of the EMS Strike Team is dictated by the Bureau of EMS and is coordinated with other appropriate local, regional, state and federal response agencies under a NIMS compliant response matrix.
To form an EMS Strike Team, each Regional EMS Council directly contracts with a predetermined number of EMS agencies in its region. Funding for each EMS Strike Team is provided by the Regional EMS Council through that Council’s existing contract with the Department of Health. In the case of EMSI’s region, EMSI has contracted with 12 EMS agencies which have committed to deliver a total of 16 ambulances and a minimum of 80 EMTs and Paramedics (five EMS personnel per agency) if activated for a team response (the “Region 4 EMS Strike Team”). Given that EMSI has approximately 160 licensed EMS agencies, more than 600 licensed ambulances and over 7,500 active providers in its region, activation of the Region 4 EMS Strike Team is not anticipated to adversely impact the provision of day-to-day EMS care.
EMSI’s region is also fortunate in three other significant respects related to EMS Strike Team activities. First, all of EMSI’s 12 staff members are currently certified EMTs or Paramedics. EMSI’s field personnel and command staff have taken all available NIMS courses, including the new NIMS compliant ICS for EMS course, and are actively involved as medical providers with various EMS agencies in the Region. Combined, EMSI staff members have over 250 years of EMS experience and live and/or function in virtually all of the counties in EMSI’s region. EMSI personnel accompany the Region 4 EMS Strike Team on any deployment or field training exercise and provide direct coordination and support for the team.
Second, the EMS agencies which participate as part of the Region 4 EMS Strike Team have contributed significant additional resources, owned or maintained by the individual EMS agencies, for the benefit of the team (the “Region 4 EMS Strike Team” is not a legal entity and, like the “Region 13 Task Force,” does not own any assets). As a result, in addition to delivering the required number of ambulances and dedicated crews, the Region 4 EMS Strike Team can deploy, function, communicate and survive independently in austere environments for a minimum of 72 hours.
Third, the EMS agencies which participate as part of the Region 4 EMS Strike Team have agreed to participate, using available equipment and personnel and to the extent requested, in any mutual aid scenario impacting the region. The support rendered in this type of a response would be outside of the official EMS Strike Team agreement, but would be coordinated in a similar fashion and bring virtually all of the same resources to bear for the benefit of the region and the safety of its residents.
Separately, pursuant to the EMS Act, EMSI, as a Regional EMS Council, is also responsible to plan, develop, maintain, expand and improve emergency medical services systems and to carry out, to the extent feasible, the statewide emergency medical services plan within this region of the Commonwealth. In keeping with this statutory mandate, EMSI has developed and implemented a mobile, rapidly deployable environmentally stable portable sheltering system which can be taken to most any location and quickly set up in close proximity to an incident. Each shelter set includes an 18 foot by 24 foot pneumatic tent, a 3.5-ton HVAC unit with a dedicated generator, a secondary generator for interior and exterior lighting, and a minimum of ten patient cots. Funding for this project was obtained by EMSI from the Pennsylvania Bureau of EMS using funds available through the Department of Health’s Office of Public Health Preparedness. All equipment was purchased by, and is currently housed, supported and maintained by, EMSI. This equipment is typically deployed using personnel and other resources from some of the same EMS agencies which also participate as members of the Region 4 EMS Strike Team.
Requests initiated at a local or regional level for activation of Region 4 EMS Strike Team personnel and resources, or for the mass care sheltering resources, should initially be directed to the appropriate county EMA official, who will communicate the request to PEMA. PEMA and the Bureau of EMS must approve any activation or deployment. If the request is only for additional mutual aid resources or sheltering equipment using assets supported by EMS agencies which participate as part of the Region 4 Strike Team, deployment is typically handled at the local and Regional level, in close coordination with the appropriate home EMS agency.