Partnering with Municipal Leaders to Solve a Local EMS Crisis


Winner of a Keystone Award from the Central PA Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America

Municipalities in the northwest portion of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, found themselves at a crossroads with local emergency medical services at risk. Northwest EMS, a non-profit agency that provides basic and advanced life support in the region, was in a state of crisis. Like so many EMS agencies in Pennsylvania and across the country, the agency was facing insolvency due to insufficient revenue and rising costs.

A committee of municipal leaders resolved to pursue a bold solution to continue to meet their municipalities’ statutory obligation to provide EMS services and engaged PRworks to lead a public relations program to achieve success.

Assessing the Situation

 To guide development of the public relations program, PRworks:

  • Conducted interviews with project stakeholders including municipal and Northwest EMS leaders
  • Gathered and studied background materials including project committee meeting minutes; testimony to the state legislature on the EMS crisis; and Northwest EMS historical data and information including call volume, financials, board reports and annual reports
  • Performed an environmental scan of the EMS issue and media coverage
  • Attended project committee meetings for ongoing information gathering

Communicating a Bold Solution

Informed by the research and subsequent situation analysis, PRworks collaborated with project stakeholders to plan a multifaceted public relations program. The goal of the program was to support the establishment of a coalition of municipalities in the region to form the first rate-setting municipal emergency services authority in Pennsylvania.

The primary audiences for the program were leaders of northwest Lancaster County municipalities and their constituents. Secondary audiences included Northwest EMS staff and news media.

PRworks began executing the public relations program in March 2022.

Tactics prior to the formation of the municipal emergency services authority included:

  • Key message development
  • Presentations to municipal elected officials
  • Public education website (
  • Social media posts for municipalities to publish to their social platforms
  • Presentation for public hearing on the formation of the authority
  • Backgrounder for Northwest EMS staff
  • Article for publication in municipal newsletters

Tactics after formation of the municipal emergency services authority included:

  • Key message development
  • Brand identity development
  • News release announcing the formation of the authority
  • Article for publication in municipal newsletters
  • Newsletters for Northwest EMS staff
  • Presentation for community groups on the new authority
  • Transformation of public education website into
  • Presentation for public hearing on the authority’s estimated fees

Changing the EMS Landscape

By July 2022, ten out of 11 prospective municipalities passed resolutions indicating their interest in forming the Municipal Emergency Services Authority of Lancaster County (MESA). Subsequently, over a period of several months, the project committee engaged in municipal public meetings, additional public education initiatives and a public hearing on the proposed authority.

The authority was incorporated on February 7, 2023. With six founding members officially on board, it plans to begin operating in early 2024.

As stated by MESA board member Marc Hershey: “It is our hope that the Municipal Emergency Services Authority of Lancaster County will serve as a model for other municipalities in Pennsylvania facing an EMS crisis. As municipal leaders, we recognized that we not only needed to solve this problem to meet our statutory obligation; we needed to solve this together to potentially save the lives of our neighbors, family members and friends.”

Since MESA’s incorporation, municipalities in other areas of Pennsylvania have begun to pursue the formation of emergency service authorities to solve their own local EMS crises and have engaged PRworks for its specialized public relations expertise in this space.

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