New Manager of Accreditation, Certification and Education Division Announced

It is with great excitement that the Virginia Office of EMS (OEMS) announces Debbie Akers as the new Manager for the Division of Accreditation, Certification and Education (ACE). Debbie is a passionate EMS educator and administrator with over 20 years of experience providing EMS educators with knowledge in educational methodology, course development and initial and continuing education programs. Debbie has established cohesive relationships with state and national EMS organizations to promote Virginia to a recognized leader in prehospital EMS education. Debbie is a Nationally Registered EMT-paramedic, Virginia EMT-Paramedic and a Virginia EMS Education Coordinator.

Debbie also worked as an ER Technician and Paramedic at Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg, served as Training Coordinator and Paramedic at Regional Emergency Medical Services in Pulaski, served as Program Director at New River Valley Training Center in Radford, and as Regional Education Coordinator at the Western Virginia EMS Council in Roanoke for seven years prior to becoming the Advanced Life Support Training Specialist at OEMS in 2011.

Debbie has been recognized by the Governor as the Outstanding Prehospital EMS Educator in Virginia in 2010. Her contributions to EMS on a national level were recognized when she was awarded the National Association of EMS Educators, HERO award in 2008.

Debbie is recognized for her solid background in business administration, and as a hands-on manager with developed skills and experience in human resource management. Anyone who has ever met Debbie or interacted with her knows that she is an effective communicator and able to foster productive relationships with colleagues, customers and staff at all levels.

Debbie is the ultimate team leader and team player and we are proud to announce her new role at OEMS. Please join us in congratulating Debbie as the new Division Manager for ACE.

June 2019 is Move Over Awareness Month

The Virginia General Assembly recognizes June 2019 as Move Over Awareness Month in honor of Lieutenant Bradford Turner Clark. Lt. Clark was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer while he was outside of his fire truck responding to a crash on I-295.

During #MoveOver Month, we’re urging you to move over when you see flashing blue, red or amber lights on Virginia’s highways. Please give first responders and law enforcement officers room to do their jobs; move over and slow down.

Remember, it’s the law. Virginia law states that when approaching a stationary vehicle that is displaying flashing blue, red or amber lights, drivers shall:

  • Proceed with caution and, if reasonable, yield the right of way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the stationary vehicle or:
  • If changing lanes would be unreasonable or unsafe, proceed with due caution and maintain a safe speed for highway conditions.

Read the Senate Joint Resolution No. 286, which recognizes June 2019 as Move Over Awareness Month in honor of Lieutenant Bradford Turner Clark:

Learn more about the Move Over law at:

Terry Coy to Retire After 28 Years of Dedicated Service to OEMS

It is with great appreciation and thanks that we announce the retirement of the Virginia Office of EMS’ (OEMS) Audio Visual Technician Terry Coy, who has served 28 years of dedicated service to the Commonwealth and Virginia’s EMS System. Beginning in January 1991, Terry was able to quickly establish the Emergency Medical Services Satellite Training program (EMSAT), which was created to offer free, quality EMS training to primarily rural Virginia EMS and fire crews. Later, Terry transitioned the program to a web-based format that continues to be free of charge to providers. Terry was able to acquire knowledgeable and well-known hosts, recognized at the state and national level. Terry’s meticulous and tedious editing produced high quality educational programs, several of which were recognized nationally.

During his tenure with the Virginia OEMS, Terry’s contributions to EMS education produced approximately 503 programs that were viewed more than 287,211 times and awarded greater than 290,584 hours of continuing education. His impact on the recertification of Virginia EMS providers will continue for years after his retirement. Please join us in thanking Terry for his service to our office, Virginia’s EMS System and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Water Safety Tips to Protect You and Your Family at the Pool, Beach or River

If you are planning to go swimming this Memorial Day weekend, remember these helpful water safety tips for in and around the pool and natural waters. To learn more about healthy and safe swimming, visit:

Healthy and Safe Swimming Infographic

Pools, Spas, and Waterparks

From 2000-2014, there were approximately 500 outbreaks nationally linked to swimming pools, hot tubs/spas and water playgrounds. Most of the outbreaks were caused by the germs CryptosporidiumLegionella, or Pseudomonas.

Water illnesses in the pool are spread through:

  • swallowing water,
  • inhaled through cooling mists,
  • hot tubs jets which force water droplets into the air, or
  • in water play areas such as splash pads and interactive fountains.

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that can cause gastrointestinal illness. It can survive a week in properly chlorinated pools. Legionella and Pseudomonas live in biofilm or slime, which protects them so they may grow even when the bromine or chlorine concentrations are properly maintained. Lungs can get infected with Legionella when breathing in contaminated water droplets produced by hot tub/spa jets. Water contaminated with Pseudomonas can cause “hot tub rash” on exposed skin or “swimmers’ ear” in the external ear canal.

Disinfectants do not kill all germs immediately. Germs that aren’t easily killed by chlorine or live in biofilm can cause outbreaks. Disinfectants are important for maintaining pool water quality. It is equally important to use precautions when using and storing these potentially toxic chemicals. In the US, more than 3,000 emergency room visits are from incorrect use of pool chemicals each year.

Here’s how you can reduce illnesses and injuries in and around the pool:

  • Don’t swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea.
  • Practice proper personal hygiene.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Every hour take kids on bathroom breaks. Change diapers in the restroom, not poolside, to keep germs away from the pool.
  • Read and follow directions on pool chemical product labels.
  • Wear appropriate safety equipment (goggles, for example) when handling pool chemicals.
  • Secure pool chemicals to protect people, particularly children and animals, from accidental exposure.
  • NEVER add pool chemicals when the pool is in use, and only add them poolside when directed by the product label.

For other helpful tips and a chemical pool safety guide, visit

Safely Recreate in Virginia’s Natural Waters

Natural bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, and oceans are home to diverse organisms. This includes germs and potentially harmful algae.

Gastrointestinal illness is the most common type of illness caused by germs. Symptoms include:

  • nausea,
  • vomiting, or
  • diarrhea.

Algae is naturally occurring in natural waters. Algae can ‘bloom’ when they become too abundant. Most types of algae are not harmful. Some algae produce toxins which can make you sick, they can cause:

  • skin irritation,
  • diarrhea and stomach pain,
  • and numbness or tingling.

Other symptoms associated with recreational water illnesses may include:

  • eye, skin, or respiratory irritation, and
  • ear, wound, and urinary tract infections.

If water is muddy, stagnant, fowl-smelling, or is a strange color you should avoid contact. When in doubt, stay out! Other tips for swimming safe in natural waterways include:

  • Look for beach advisory signs along public access points or along the beach. Many public beaches in Virginia are monitored for bacteria levels. An advisory is posted if these levels are too high. If the beach is under advisory, stay out of the water.
  • All natural bodies of water contain bacteria, including salt water. Salty water will not disinfect wounds. If you have broken skin, stay out of the water.
  • Hold your nose or use nose clips when taking part in freshwater recreational activities.
  • Avoid swimming in natural waters for at least three days after heavy rain.
  • Don’t swim when you are sick. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  • Avoid getting water up your nose. Use a nose clip or plug your nose before going under the water.
  • If you become sick after being in the water, report your water activities to your doctor.
  • Shower with soap and water before and after swimming. Wash pets off after they swim too.
  • Keep children and pets from swimming in scummy water. If you see mats of algae or discolored green, red, or brown water, an algae bloom may be present.
  • Report harmful algal blooms (HAB) or large groups of dead fish to the HAB Hotline at:

Safe Swimming for Smart Swimming

Every day, two children under 14 years old die from drowning. Drowning is the leading cause of injury and death for children ages 1-4 years. To keep swimmers safe in the water:

  • Make sure everyone knows how to swim.
  • Use life jackets and wear them appropriately.
  • Provide continuous attentive supervision near swimmers.
  • Know CPR. Find a class near you.
  • Use sunscreen. Apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
  • Install and maintain barriers like 4-sided fencing and weight-bearing pool covers.
  • Use locks or alarms for pool access points.

For more information on staying healthy and safe in and around the water this summer, visit