By Allison G. S. Knox, M.A., EMT-B, faculty member at American Military University
In the wake of the 2008 great recession, budgets and financial concerns have been at the forefront of policy making throughout the United States. Perhaps one of the most frustrating elements about working in emergency management and emergency medical services (EMS) are the constant threat of budget cuts.
[Related Article: How to be Prepared for Budget Cuts]
Cuts to Emergency Management
Budget cuts to emergency management programs make it difficult for a community to be adequately prepared for a disaster. Such agencies require resources to plan, prepare, respond, and recover from a disaster and when funding sources are slashed, communities often end up ill-prepared.
Citizens are also impacted by such budget cuts on a daily basis. For example, many communities are facing cuts to their 9-1-1 emergency system. Like many public safety programs, the 9-1-1 system cannot generate revenue, so it becomes a program that largely depends upon the government for funding and support. Liam Migdail-Smith writes in Emergency Management Magazine that the 9-1-1 system in Pennsylvania is experiencing rising costs—costs that the government simply can’t keep up with.
Budget Cuts to EMS
Similarly, EMS agencies throughout the country are experiencing budget shortages and, with the rising costs, are certainly at risk for further financial woes down the road. This crisis is also impacting citizens directly. For example, in Washington, D.C., EMS is experiencing a budgetary crisis that has led to slowed response times, which is ultimately impacting the care of critical patients.
[Related Article: The Need to Avoid EMS Staffing Reductions During Budget Cuts]
EMS and emergency management agencies are in dire need of budgets that will help them sustain personnel, equipment, and vehicle fleets. Lawmakers and those who control state and federal budgets need to remember that these public agencies will never generate revenue and will always cost money to sustain. However, these agencies are lifelines for citizens. They are public safety enterprises that keep the public safe, whether it’s a natural disaster or a medical emergency.
Budgets should be constructed in such a way that these vital services are able to function effectively to manage staff, fleets, and equipment. An effective budget means that these agencies are able to adequately prepare for daily emergencies as well as catastrophic ones, and continue saving countless lives through their services.
About the Author: Allison G. S. Knox is on the faculty at American Military University. An emergency medical technician and a political scientist, Allison’s research interests are comprised of federalism and emergency management/emergency medical services policy issues. Prior to teaching, Allison worked in a level one trauma center emergency department and for a member of congress in Washington, D.C. She holds Master’s degrees in Emergency Management, International Relations and History and is working on her doctorate at Virginia Tech in Public Administration and Policy. Allison currently serves as the Chapter Sponsor and Faculty Adviser for the West Virginia Iota Chapter of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, and also serves as the Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society.