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Team Blog

May 17, 2020

By: Mike Poynter, Executive Director, EMT-P, CP-C, FACPE

2020 National EMS Week

Welcome to our first series of blogs. We hope that you can learn a little more about us both professionally and personally here. And we thought National EMS Week, and sharing experiences about COVID-19, would be the perfect time to start. So, here we go.

Thank you to the EMS professionals across the Commonwealth on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis. I understand that the 2020 EMS Week is probably not a top priority as the COVID-19 crisis continues. I also recognize that EMS professionals are on the frontlines of the crisis everyday--planning, adapting, and responding to take care of your citizens and communities. Because of the impact of COVID-19 on many EMS services across Kentucky it is unlikely that they you will be able to celebrate and participate in EMS Week in the normal ways.

As a result, this year’s campaign will focus on recognizing the selfless calling that makes EMS so vital. The 2020 EMS Week theme is Ready Today. Preparing for Tomorrow. This theme, which was developed long before the COVID-19 crisis, is particularly meaningful now as we see the EMS community rallying to continuing to support those affected by this crisis, all while still responding to the everyday emergencies that continue to occur in your communities. All while dealing with challenges such as the lack of access to appropriate PPE and fellow workers who are stricken with this virus. Now more than ever, it is important that we honor and celebrate our EMS professionals who are supporting the health and well-being of our nation. Especially those brave individuals who give the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.

We will continue to assess the implications of how EMS Week can be recognized this year, abiding by national and local guidelines. We will also be focusing on personal safety and mental health to help protect our EMS personnel who are experiencing adverse effects of their experiences during this crisis.

I send my best wishes for the safety and health of all EMS personnel on the first lines across the Commonwealth of Kentucky.


May 17, 2020

By: Chuck O'Neal, Deputy Executive Director, MS, NRP, FACPE

Chuck O'Neal 1 Chuck O'Neal 2 Chuck O'Neal 3

Let's talk about COVID-19, even though we'd like to forget about it at this point.

Mike Poynter, Executive Director of KBEMS staffs the Commonwealth Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort five (5) days a week from 0800-1800.  Paul Phillips, Director of Field Operations, Drew Chandler, Data Administrator, and I rotate through CEOC staffing every third day.  We started this operation on March 16, 2020 and have been here ever since.

It has been a challenging time for all of us for sure, and our personal work challenges are enhanced by our concern for the EMS professionals in the field that we consider our colleagues and partners in safety.  I worked on firetrucks, ambulances, and helicopters for years; to me, our colleagues in the field are my brothers and sisters. 

I primarily handle and coordinate legal activities for the board.  Everything from disciplinary actions of agencies and professionals, facilitating about 75 meetings a year of the KBEMS Board, Committees, and Subcommittees, and working with Task Forces, Committees, and the Board to draft administrative regulations (You can’t imagine how much fun that is).  I have never been “told” this, but I think I am kind of the KBEMS “Junk Drawer.”  If you need it and you can’t find it, ask Chuck. 😊  I don’t mind, I like helping my team at KBEMS and answering questions for the teams in the field. 

Lately, I have been working day in and day out reviewing background checks for about 9,000 previously certified or licensed individuals.  KBEMS wanted to provide an influx of EMS personnel during the COVID-19 response by providing a free Emergency Reinstatement process for those previously certified or licensed.  I thought it was a great idea, and it worked…but that meant I needed to review about 9,000 or so background checks to make sure everyone was eligible.  It was a day and night chore, and I finished the entire “Ozark” series on Netflix while I was reviewing them, but they are complete. 😊

The Emergency Orders:

On March 30, 2020, Governor Andy Beshear signed SB 150.  SB 150 was the Kentucky Coronavirus bill.  In the bill, the Governor delegated authority to waive or modify Statutes and Administrative regulations to the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services, Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, and the Kentucky Board of Nursing to ensure the safety of the public during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.  In response, the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services voted on April 6, 2020 to delegate the authority to waive and modify statues and administrative regulations to Michael Poynter, the KBEMS Executive Director.

On April 9th, 2020, six (6) Emergency Orders were signed and enacted by KBEMS to relax regulations to allow for the optimum allowance of EMS personnel available to our communities:

  • 202 KAR 7:201- First Responders
  • 202 KAR 7:301- EMT
  • 202 KAR 7:330- Requirements for examination, certification, and recertification of the advanced emergency medical technician
  • 202 KAR 7:401- Paramedics
  • 202 KAR 7:601- Training, education, and continuing education; and
  • 202 KAR 7:701- Scope of Practice

These Emergency Orders were drafted in two (2) days and enacted immediately. (Yes, more Netflix)

Putting in about 100 hours this week, we went to work on the next set of Emergency Orders to get them in place as soon as possible.

On April 14th, 2020, the following Emergency Orders were signed and enacted:

  • 202 KAR 7:501- Ambulance agency licensure
  • 202 KAR 7:510- Air ambulance services
  • 202 KAR 7:540- EMS Data collection, management, and compliance
  • 202 KAR 7:545- License classifications
  • 202 KAR 7:550- Required equipment and vehicle standards
  • 202 KAR 7:555- Ground agencies
  • 202 KAR 7:560- Ground vehicle staff; and
  • 202 KAR 7:801- Medical Directors

This takes a lot of writing and analysis, but we got it done.  At the conclusion of the Governor’s disaster declaration, they will all become obsolete.  One thing is for sure, with all of our collective EMS experience across the state, NONE of us have ever experienced anything like this, and I pray we never have to again.  That being said, if we do, hopefully we will have everything in place from the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic to take care of whatever comes our way.

Seeing how all of our EMS leadership met with us every week on conference calls, submitted information on PPE requests, agency reports on staff that were quarantined or in isolation, and seeing our EMRs, EMTs, AEMTs, and Paramedics hit the streets every single day without fear, and without question makes me very proud to be a Paramedic in Kentucky.  My EMS family is smart, and safe, and we won’t let this or anything else tear us down.

Thank You ALL for all that you do!  Stay Safe!


May 17, 2020

By: Paul Phillips, Director of Field Operations, Paramedic, MS

Paul Phillips

Several months ago I had a text conversation with a friend where I shared feeling a bit torn. I had achieved so many of my self-imposed “career goals” but something just felt like it wasn’t right. 

Look….I never could have imagined, as a newbie volunteer firefighter and rescue squad member over 20 years ago, that I would end up having the opportunity to shape the way EMS functions in the state. I was honestly happy working on an ambulance every third day with the occasional overtime shift. But when we found out we were having twins I realized that I needed a different path.

I don’t want anyone to see that as a slight on people that raise their children while they are working in EMS, because I admire those that have done that. I just couldn’t do it, for several reasons but I think I was just ready for the next phase in my life.

That leads me back to the text conversation. I was feeling a bit “stuck” and didn’t know how to get out of it. I wanted to do work that had “significance” and sometimes it just didn’t feel that way.

Insert “be careful what you ask for” reference HERE!

When we first started hearing about the coronavirus (back before COVID-19 was a thing) I basically thought it would be a lot like the ebola scare a few years ago. I thought we’d create some plans, have some meetings, but nothing of much substance would ever materialize.

Man, was I wrong!!!

KBEMS staff have been manning the Kentucky State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) for almost two months now, and I have never been a part of anything like this. Some days are overwhelming and I have applied more hand sanitizer to my hands than I thought physically possible, but I’ve also gotten the privilege to be part of something historic…..maybe even something of “significance”.

The amount of coordination that goes into an operation like this is pretty amazing, but you finally get to see how all the training that we’ve all gone through formally comes together. “Well oiled machine” doesn’t begin to describe it. It’s like an orchestra being led by a master conductor, and our master conductor is our Executive Director, Mike Poynter. Mike has led by example during this incident, and hasn’t asked any of us to spend one second of time at the SEOC that he hasn’t put in himself.

The best example of this coordination is how the “Kroger Drive-Thru Testing” sites came online. This was the subject of discussion almost immediately when the SEOC was stood up, and it involved so many different agencies…..from private partners like Kroger down to the National Guard. This truly was an “all hands on deck” undertaking. And even though it took longer than anyone wanted, all the pieces eventually fell into place.

When I worked on the ambulance I was always concerned about bringing some type of disease or pathogen to my family, but I never really thought it would be an issue just for going to the grocery store or going to a restaurant to eat dinner. My family is my main priority, and this event didn’t change that….it just took on a different look. I know the worry has been much greater for all of you, as EMS providers who work on an ambulance and I want you all to make sure and take a few moments for yourself from time to time and just check in and make sure that you are doing OK. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

I know so many of you have been working long hours (I know…..what’s so different about that?), but the game has changed. You probably haven’t had a chance to binge watch all the episodes of Tiger King (don’t worry….neither have I), but I hope you know that what you do is “significant”, as is what I do. Knowing that it is my job to protect my family and yours has given me a renewed sense of purpose, and THAT is significant!

Just as HIV changed things in the 90’s and we had to start wearing gloves and being concerned about “bloodborne pathogens”, COVID-19 will change the way EMS is provided, not only in Kentucky, but across the world. Things like PPE and “aerosolized procedures” have become part of our everyday lexicon. I hope that whatever normal looks or feels like on the other side of the coronavirus, we as an EMS community will not lose that “COMMUNITY” aspect of what we do. If there was ever a time to stick together and protect one another it is now.

It will never be enough but, from my family to you, I want to say “THANK YOU” to each and every EMS provider across Kentucky! You are the best!!!