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Communication for EMS/Fire Services

What is Communication?

Communication is the process of using words and body language to relay information and ideas. Communication can be spoken or written and includes face to face, phone calls, emails, texts, instant messages and posts to social media. Communication skills are essential for public relations and marketing your EMS Department to other agencies as well as interacting with your community. There are two types of Communication: Public Communication (Spoken Communication) & Public Relations (Written Communication).

Public Communication is known as Spoken Communication that happens in person or on the telephone. Successful verbal communication requires organization of thoughts into a message that clearly conveys what you want others to do or think. There are three components involved in successful public communication:

  • The Speaker – It is important that you are well organized, use proper grammar and enunciate your words.

  • The Message – The message should be clear, concise and easy to understand.

  • The Receiver – Make sure the receiver has time to listen and is not distracted.

Public Communication Tips

When speaking with someone in person or on the telephone:

  • Be organized and have a clear message

  • Use proper grammar and enunciate your words

  • Make sure the receiver has time to listen and is not distracted

  • Avoid slang terms and acronyms

  • Keep your tone positive and professional

Public Relations is also known as Written Communication which can be in the form of letters, memos, emails, texts, reports, press releases and social media posts. When writing an email or text message:

  • Use proper grammar and punctuation

  • Avoid slang terms and acronyms

  • Keep your tone positive and professional

When it comes to communicating with other agencies, or with your community, it is important to remember to be organized, use proper grammar, and enunciate your words. Make sure you have time to listen and are not distracted. Avoid slang terms and acronyms when possible, and keep your tone positive and professional. If you are speaking with someone in person or on the telephone, remember to be organized and have a clear message; use proper grammar and enunciate your words.

Written Communication in the form of letters, memos, emails, texts, reports, press releases and social media posts. Communication is vital for public relations as it can help build trust with other agencies as well as your community. Communication should be concise, communicate what you want others to do or think without being too technical or emotional that it creates confusion or anxiety in those listening.

In today's world of instant messaging through texting, emailing & social networking sites such as Facebook & Twitter, Public Relations should be part of every Emergency Medical Services Department's strategic plan to ensure the safety of the community and a clear line of communication between all agencies.


How You Should Communicate with the Public and Media

Communication skills are something one must constantly work on. The information provided below is not intended to make you an expert; however, it will give you some good starting points to start developing your own style of communicating like a professional.


Clear and proper communication is vitally important in both public relations and marketing for your EMS department . Communication isn't just about knowing what words to say; it's also about listening and having the right tone (i.e., using the correct volume level and inflection). Communication is more than just a one-way street - it's a two-way process that involves give and take.


When communicating with the public or media, always remember your goal is to:

  • Preserve the dignity of the individual

  • Protect the privacy of the individual

  • Promote and protect the reputation of your EMS department

Some Dos and Don'ts:

Do:

  • Use plain language that is easy to understand

  • Avoid technical jargon

  • Speak slowly and clearly

  • Use proper grammar and spelling

  • Use visual aids (e.g., graphs, charts, PowerPoint presentations) when possible to help explain complex information

  • Remain calm and professional, even when faced with difficult questions

  • Anticipate possible questions and be prepared to answer them

Don't:

  • Lie or mislead the public or media

  • Get defensive or angry when questioned

  • Make assumptions about what the public or media knows

  • Talk down to the public or media

  • Ignore questions or try to change the subject

Tips for Communication with the Public:

When speaking with members of the public, always remember:

  • Your audience is made up of individuals, each with their own unique set of needs and concerns

  • You need to take the time to listen to what they have to say

  • Not everyone is going to be experts on the topic; therefore, you need to make sure they understand what you are saying

  • If necessary, provide them with some basic information on the topic and follow up with them at a later date if they have further questions

Tips for Communication with the Media:

When speaking with members of the media, always remember:

  • The media isn't always right and just because it's reported in the newspaper or on TV/radio doesn't mean it's true

  • Always be respectful towards reporters and treat them as professionals even if their reporting may be unprofessional (e.g., inaccurate)

  • Reporters can be very persistent so don't be afraid to say ‘no comment’ or refer them back to your public relations office

Tips for Communication in Team Meetings:

Hosting your monthly or bi-weekly meetings are just another part of running an effective and efficient EMS department. Being able to communicate to your staff is by far one of the main reasons that organizations can struggle with personnel challenges. Communication during the meetings is vital to keep your department running smoothly and without delays. Here are some tips for communicating in team meetings effectively:

  • Arrive early and prepare ahead of time; don't be caught off guard or unprepared

  • Speak clearly, concisely and with confidence (you don't want to sound like you are stuttering or hesitant)

  • Avoid using acronyms unless everyone else in the room knows what they mean; if someone doesn't know what you're talking about, then they should ask before moving on to a different topic

  • Ask questions if there's something that isn't clear so that everyone can fully understand it before going further into the conversation/meeting

Why You Should Know How to Communicate Effectively


Communication is also important for public relations and marketing. EMS departments need to be able to communicate with the public about their services, educate people about how to stay safe in an emergency, and promote their department. Communication can also help build relationships with the community and local officials.


Understanding that communication is vital towards your budget and fundraising is also a crucial takeaway. Your fundraising and budget relies on your budget image. The community that you serve wants to know if you are running smoothly or if your department is struggling. The public doesn't want to find out until it's too late that your department is about to shut down due to funding, staffing challenges, etc. So when it comes to budget time and you have driven awareness on how your department is facing challenges and have tried everything you can, they won't be surprised.


Surrounding yourself with good communication skills will only help the public and community see your EMS department in a positive light. Communication allows you to keep an open line of communication with the public and helps minimize the dissemination of inaccurate information spread by people who are making assumptions about the situation. Effective communication is always important for both EMS departments and elected officials because our goal should be to work together for a clear understanding of issues, resulting in better outcomes for the department and the community as a whole.

 

Alan DeYoung is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin EMS Association (WEMSA). He started with the Wisconsin EMS Association back in 2018 as the Sales & Marketing Director. Alan holds a Masters in Strategic Marketing, Bachelors in Information Technology. His experience includes being a small business owner, working for startups, Fortune 100s, and non-profit organizations.


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