Sunstar Paramedics is located in Largo, FL with a population of 90,000 residents, making it the third largest city in Pinellas County. Unfortunately, Largo has a 15.09% poverty rate and 21% of its residents are considered senior citizens. These statistics, along with an overall lack of health and wellness events in the area, made Largo a great location for our first annual EMS Week Community Health and Safety Fair.
Our overarching goal was to increase awareness of health-related dangers while helping to decrease preventable injuries and deaths. To help guide us in these goals, we conducted a risk analysis of the community by reviewing our 911 calls and ambulance dispatch history. We looked for patterns in both emergency and nonemergency calls for EMS for this geographic region and found that falls, drownings, infant sleep safety, opioid awareness, and CPR knowledge topped the list.
We knew that as an ambulance agency, we wouldn’t be able to provide education and awareness on all of the wellness and personal safety issues we wanted to address. So, our next goal was to recruit other safety advocates and agencies within our community, who would be willing to provide free health screenings, safety information and free giveaways that the public could take home. In addition, we partnered with other public safety agencies in the area including Largo’s fire department, police department, Sherriff, SWAT Team, our EMS special event team and local medical flight helicopter. This group made up an exciting touch-a-truck exhibit for children, which was a large draw for the event.
Planning & Implementation
After the initial evaluation, our agency applied for a grant through Pinellas County’s Public Safety Services Department to help supplement the cost of our health and safety fair. We were awarded some funding and created sponsorship opportunities to help cover supplemental expenses, including food and beverages for visitors. Our mission for the event was for it to be entirely free for the community and this goal was reached! It was decided that an ideal way for our EMS agency to market the fair to our local community was to use this family wellness event to kick off national EMS Week. Sunstar’s first annual Health and Safety Fair was scheduled for Saturday May 18, 2019. This gave us 3 months to plan, market and implement our event.
We began to solicit community partners and vendors the middle of February and word spread quickly. By March, our small wellness awareness day blossomed into a robust safety event. In all, we had 23 safety advocates, health agencies, public safety entities, businesses and hospitals that were excited to have an opportunity to connect with this community. All participants were involved in logistics planning for the event and insurance requirements were met per Pinellas County’s Risk Management department.
The week of May 13th was filled with preparation and set up, including parking logistics, safety inspections, volunteer sign ups and vendor confirmations. We used a local public relations firm to send out a press release for our health and safety fair, allowing the event to get marketed to TV viewers around the county. We also coordinated with our local sheriff’s office to add digital marques on the roadway near our property, advertising the event to local residents throughout the week. Coordination efforts had to be established early to prepare for the landing of Bayflight, our local medical helicopter. Although they are used to landing in restricted areas, the touch-a-truck portion of our fair was being held in a narrow area between our business office and a busy road. A lot of safety preparations and early planning was involved to ensure that the crew and their helicopter could land safety as well as take off quickly if a medical call was received.
On Saturday, May 18th our Sunstar parking lot was full of community partners excited to chat with the Largo community! The Florida Bike & Pedestrian office provided free bike helmets for children and adults and each individual was properly fitted by members of our local Safe Kids Coalition. In addition, children’s life jackets were purchased with a portion of our grant funding and handed out to families, with our local YMCA on site to help properly fit the vests. The YMCA of the Suncoast also handed out information on free children’s swim lessons during the summer time. Costumed characters were on site to welcome children and help teach the mission of safety and healthy habits and many of the vendors offered interactive games and activities so that the entire family could participate with each service organization.
However, increasing awareness for children’s safety wasn’t our only mission during the Health and Safety Fair. Aging adults were an important audience for us and we wanted to make sure they found value in visiting the event. Grant funds were used to purchase wall-mounted night lights for seniors, which were handed out with information on trip and fall hazards. Employees of BayCare Health System volunteered their time providing free cholesterol and A1C screenings for diabetes. Bayfront Hospital staff offered fall risk assessments and one of our local HCA hospitals provided free blood pressure screenings. The Opioid Taskforce supplied free Narcan to attendees along with education on overdose and how to use the antidote. Best of all, our own Sunstar EMS staff taught hands-only CPR for humans and pets and the Fall Prevention Taskforce provided Tia Chi demonstrations to promote better balance.
Some of the partners who helped to make our event so successful include: John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Pinellas County Animal Control, Largo Fire and Largo Police, One Blood, Poison Control, Safe Kids Coalition, YMCA of the Suncoast, Bayflight, We Rock the Spectrum, Pinellas County Public Safety Services, Ames Production / Falls Prevention, Mangsen Elder Law Group, 911 Center, Disability Achievement Center, Bayfront Health, Largo Recreational Center, Coastal Animal Hospital, Juvenile Welfare Board, Clearwater Free Clinic, USF Center for Autism, LSF Head Start, Early Learning Coalition, Florida Department of Children and Families, Cronin Counseling Services, Blue Q Wellness and the Pinellas County Health Department.
To market our event to the public, we advertised on local TV stations, radio and social media. We used county electronic signage and banners the week before the event. We invited a local news station to preview the event the day before to demonstrate hands only CPR and to show some of the items that would be handed out to visitors. All of our partners also advertised the event through their social media.
Initially, we estimated that approximately 250 residents would attend the event. However, based on a raffle we had for all attendees, we estimated that close to 500 individuals visited the Health and Safety fair that day! In addition, we originally envisioned a dozen vendors participating in our event and ended up with 23 community partners, filling up our parking lot with tents, information and give-a-ways!
Several weeks later, we electronically surveyed our community vendors to get their input on how the fair went, what worked and what could use improvement. Based on the feedback we received back, 93% of our vendors stated they liked the event, thought it was very successful and were excited to return if we hosted it again.
Because the event was held on the grounds of our operation, it has brought awareness of our footprint in the community and the services and programs Sunstar Paramedics offers to the public. While we do not yet have data to show improvement of safety and wellness within our community, we do have the following statistics to show the impact we had on the residents who visited the fair:
65 Helmets were handed out, 43 life vests provided to children, 31 blood screens, 12 fall assessments, 31 blood pressure checks and 45 night lights were passed out.
Based on attendance we feel we provided a vital service to the community.
Our budget for the Community Health and Safety Fair was $6,000.00. Pinellas County Public Safety Services awarded us a grant totaling $4,800.00. We used these funds to pay for personnel for the event, purchase visitor handouts (life vests and nightlights), help with rental equipment costs and other incidentals. The remainder of our funding ($1200.00) came from sponsorship’s, which helped pay for food and beverages, all which was handed out to visitors and volunteers during the event, for free.