A Guide to Planning and Executing an Educational and Informational Program


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Download the Safety Day Handbook

Vision Zero is an Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS) initiative created to achieve zero errors of consequence through Education, Awareness and Vigilance. The Vision Zero initiative addresses the essential components of building a community culture of safety.

AAMS, Vision Zero and the contributors to this handbook recognize the need to help educate individuals and programs about the planning, financing and implementation of a safety education day. All of the contributors to this guide have helped plan and execute “Safety Day” programs.

Safety education days are not new. They have been taking place for decades across our industry. This, at times, satisfies regulatory expectations. They are likely to be a significant part of your program’s Safety Management System.

Why a Safety Day?

Safety Days were started in order to facilitate discussion and educate the industry.

Safety days provide an opportunity to develop and/or expand an organization and individual’s collaborative mindset on the broader concept of safety culture. Collaboration involves attempts to find solutions where all participants agree on a common goal.

Hosting a Safety Day helps to:

  • Educate, build culture, raise awareness, and break down walls while building relationships. The desired end result is increased personal and collective vigilance.
  • Recognize the consequences of errors, which affect us all.
  • Make the phrase “Safety is not proprietary” an action.
  • Promote safety discussions between multiple programs and across a variety of fields (i.e. aviation, medical, maintenance, business, and administration).
  • Improve processes and develop better procedures/practices by learning from the experiences of others.
  • Create an open forum for discussions outside your individual base or program.
  • Develop action groups for continued safety initiatives throughout the year.

Purpose and Scope of Safety Day Handbook

Have you ever wanted to host a safety education day in your area? Does it sound intimidating? What do you need to do to make it successful? How do you get funding? How far in advance do you need to be planning? Where do you find speakers?

This information is designed to help answer those frequently asked questions. The information is provided by programs and individuals who have successfully planned and hosted safety education days. It is not intended to be comprehensive or cover all aspects of the planning needed, but is meant as a guide for the major elements. Updated adjuncts and additions will be available online at https://aams.org/vision-zero/.

Students of social sciences and economics are familiar with and have had lengthy discussions about the game theory known as the “prisoner’s dilemma.” The theory behind this game reveals why two people may not cooperate even if it is in the best interest of both parties, to do so.

The majority of HEMS providers are living in a modern version of the “prisoner’s dilemma.” Many agree that working collaboratively with neighboring HEMS programs will mitigate overall risk and increase safety for those programs. Still, many do not or cannot collaborate together.

The overriding goal of all HEMS providers is to deliver exceptional clinical care in the safest environment possible; however, significant disparities still exist between neighboring programs. The reasons are well known: various operating models, clinical configuration, aviation or clinical capability, simple indifference and a silo mentality. The net result of these variations can lead to an increase in risk profiles for all programs. Instead of focusing on the differences, the HEMS industry needs to focus on channeling those differences into productive collaborations, which will produce new approaches to challenges that impact our industry both locally and nationally.
       —Todd Denison, Boston Medflight, AMJ Volume 31, Issue 4 , Pages 174-176, July 2012



The success of a safety day will be determined by the effort of the group of people assigned to plan it. Select a small group of dedicated and motivated individuals to make up the safety day planning committee. Try to keep the group small, yet include a representative of each discipline (aviation, clinical, administrative, etc.) and/or each program involved in the safety day.

Dedicate meeting times monthly or bi-monthly where you will discuss ideas and roles. In the beginning, brainstorm with each other to come up with a basic outline of the day(s) and select a leader for the group. Agree on the duties that will be delegated out to each individual, and capitalize on their strong suits. As a leader of a committee, make sure your group is helpful and productive.

Audience, size, scope and content

Determine the right type of symposium/conference to fit your program’s or region’s needs.

First, define your audience. This may be as small as a single base or as large as a region with multiple modes of transport and several operators. Once the type, make-up, and size of the audience is determined, the requirements for resources, timing, and venue for executing the safety day will need to be determined.

Consider hosting your safety day on the coat tails of a larger meeting or conference. This will bring more interest and people to your event. However, ensure that the time you have dedicated towards the safety day remains just that…a day in which safety is 100% of the focus.

Intended Audience

Include components of rotary, fixed wing and ground. Who do you want your audience to be?
By including all modes of transport and opening the attendance to those outside of a single program, we can help one another by taking a community approach in the areas of safety education and safety awareness. By opening your safety education day to neighboring programs and services, a common language, standards and lines of communication can be developed.

  • Host program
  • Neighboring programs
  • Local EMS community
  • Referring hospital staff
  • Family members of flight crew

Safety days may vary in length, with some lasting mere hours and others several days. It is important to be innovative to make the event thought provoking and keep your audience’s attention. Look outside the industry for other high risk/high stress industries that could convey relevant safety points to create a learning opportunity about another industry. The commercial aviation, space, military, and public service industries are commonly used for this.

Scope and Content

Most safety days will have some common content, such as Safety Management System (SMS) education and Air Medical Resource Management (AMRM). The scope of your content will largely depend on the audience you are speaking to. It may be exclusive to rotary wing transport or it may expand to rotary wing, fixed wing, and ground transport and even a component for Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers (i.e. scene, landing zone, helipad safety). Don’t forget patient safety…it is not just about operational topics!

In addition to planned topics, solicit suggestions for “Hot Topics.” Your safety committee will likely have great suggestions.

Be sure that your topics are consistent with your objectives, but find creative ways to hold the audience’s attention. Appeal to all disciplines in the audience, and have someone speak from an aviation standpoint as well as a clinical one. Consider some of the following ideas:

  • Survivor’s Network: Having a survivor share their experience helps to bring the human component to the safety day. There are many survivors throughout the country that are willing to share their experience, and have a history of being very “relatable” to current flight crew – https://www.facebook.com/survivornetwork.
  • Representatives from government organizations such as the NTSB and FAA can generate ample discussion and great questions throughout their presentations.
  • Digital Safety Stories: Short 3-4 minute videos available online at no cost. They are specific to the medical transport community, and each story has speaking points/questions available for discussion – https://www.youtube.com/user/TheCenterMedResearch.
  • Consider using a speaker from a program or organization local to where the event is being held. Attendees will be able to relate to the familiarity of the speaker or story, and this can also save on cost.

From the list that you create of your proposed topics, you will need to seek speakers for those topics. This needs to be done at the earliest possible date if you plan on bringing in speakers from outside your program. Create an event that your staff looks forward to. It is okay to have some fun as long as the safety messages are clear and understood.

Safety Day Potential Speakers List

Presentation Ideas

Depending on the size of your audience, you may want to break the speaker sessions up. Speakers can address the entire audience, or split off into breakout sessions. Breakout sessions help the flow of the day and give the audience a chance to pick a topic to listen to that interests them. These sessions also facilitate discussion between peers and the speakers to enhance the learning experience and promote networking. Starting and ending the day with general sessions and breakout sessions in between is common, and keeps attendees awake and interested.

Be sure to allow several breaks throughout the day to facilitate networking between attendees. This can often be missed, and is very important to building relationships that will discourage the “competitiveness” between programs.

Broaden your Audience; Take Advantage of Technology

  • Tweet Chat during your safety event allowing anyone to follow the safety points made
  • Use Facebook to promote the safety messages and recognize all the participating programs
  • Set-up Teleconferencing in order to expand the audience (great for on-shift crews)
  • Record presentations for future use and/or to share on YouTube

Sample Safety Day Schedule
Tailor the topics to your specific needs


Note: A 3-day template sample is available in the online Vision Zero Toolbox, powered by Airbus Helicopters.

Sample Presentation & Lesson Plan


Note: This should be requested from each speaker when they submit to speak.

Things to Remember

  • Include meal breaks and allow time for networking.
  • End on a positive note. If the morning is a sad story, make the afternoon a lighter (maybe with appropriate humor) topic.
  • Patient stories are very inspiring and can end the day reminding everyone why they do what they do.
  • Consider allowing families to attend if the topics are appropriate.
  • Designate someone to photograph the day.
  • You may consider a raffle prize, or handouts.
  • If starting early in the day, have some coffee and pastries set out.


Due to expenses for individual speakers fees and/or a venue, the cost of a safety day can vary. Audience size and the decision to provide lunch to them can really make or break a safety day budget.

Below are some cost saving tips and funding suggestions.

  • Look for ways to make it apply to other organizations that may be willing to help fund it in return. For example, invite your vehicle vendor to co-sponsor the event and open the event to all of their personnel. That may make sponsorship more attractive to them because they won’t need to plan their own event.
  • Look for medical device sponsors who may have a safety angle. This may be an outright donation, or you can choose to have a vendor display area. Local hospitals may also be interested in this.
  • Ask speakers to speak for free or just offer their travel arrangements as payment.
  • Get in-kind donations, such as hotel rooms for speakers, thank you gifts, or food for attendees in exchange for advertising at the event.
  • Partner with your local community college—most offer free auditorium and AV use and may even have accommodations/dorms.
  • Create a flyer for funders highlighting your plan for the safety day and how they could benefit from donating towards it. You may also develop a tiered donation system, explaining the different levels they can donate for and what advertising they will get in return.

Examples of Expenses:

  1. Food for attendees (choose if you will provide lunch, or coffee and pastries for breakfast)
  2. Speaker travel (airfare, hotel arrangements, transportation, food, etc)
  3. Printing material/advertisement for safety day
  4. Signage in common areas
  5. One day events are less costly but need to remain within reasonable driving distance. Consider travel time for attendees (drivable and easily accessible locations).
  6. Consider hosting a dinner after the safety day for your speakers and planning committee.
  7. Consider a token item for attendees (Ex. T-shirts, safety coins, hats)
  8. The venue will be one of the largest expenses unless you can get the space donated for free. Consider multiple options before committing to one place.

Sample Budget
Approximately 50 attendees


* Your program’s operator may be your best financial partner for a Safety Day. The air transport industry has long found value in bringing their staff together for quality programs that keep the safety mindset and corporate focus towards quality operations very high. It is good for their people, their brand, and to prevent accidents and injury.

Make sure and involve them early in the budget planning process. The operator (part 135 or ground vendor) may bridge the gap if there is a financial shortfall or they may choose to finance the entire day from the very beginning in exchange for high visibility in marketing to potential attendees.

Bring a solid detailed plan to them and be prepared to answer questions.

Do not be afraid to ask for funding.



A 10–12 month timeline is the general consensus for the amount of time needed to plan a Safety Day once the “type” has been chosen.

  • Securing speakers is the most time consuming task and needs to be pursued at the earliest possible opportunity. This will also include determining if speaker fees will be required.
  • Following up and staying on the timeline is crucial.
  • Market the safety day early and often. Dedicate someone to be in charge of this and ensure that each program involved knows the specifics of the upcoming day.

Sample Timeline

10–12 Months Prior to Event

  • Assign teams to help prepare for the Safety Day—they should consist of one leader that keeps everyone on track and several team members that are given assignments with strict deadlines. Also include team members from other organizations, if they are invited, to promote buy-in to the event.
  • Set the date and time for the event.
  • Decide on the target audience.
  • Estimate the maximum number of attendees desired.
  • Find a location that meets all the needs, to include desired number of attendee’s, parking capacity, audio and video requirements, ability to provide meal and vendor area.
  • Narrow down speaker list and begin to make calls to book the speakers.

8–10 Months Prior to Event

  • Book speakers and obtain signed contracts if applicable.
  • Book event location and obtain signed contract if required.
  • Develop sponsor form—this should include sponsorship levels and explanations for each level.
  • Locate and acquire vendors/sponsors for the event.
  • Locate hotel close to event location—obtain discounted room rate for block of rooms.
  • Locate caterer for meals during event and have contract signed.

6–8 Months Prior to Event

  • Prepare brochure to include registration for attendance.
  • Begin preparation for items to be given away (raffle).

4–6 Months Prior to Event

  • Send out brochure to include registration for attendance.
  • Begin using social media to advertise the event.
  • Assign team member to coordinate arrival of registration forms. Keep a running tally of each attendee for official registration on the day of the event.
  • Prepare directional signs to be used on the day of the event to help attendees locate vendor, lecture and registration area, etc Obtain items to be given away in raffle from vendors if applicable.
  • Complete travel arrangements for each speaker.

2–3 Months Prior to Event

  • Prepare a formal agenda for the day of the event that will be given to each attendee and print the appropriate number of copies.
  • Prepare evaluations that will be completed by each attendee at the end of the event.
  • Send email reminders to each vendor and speaker to remind them of the event. Check in with them to see if they need any information. Send them travel information as needed.
  • Prepare introductions for each speaker and assign personnel to present these on the day of the event.
  • Prepare procedure for raffle and any supplies needed for distribution.
  • Assign crewmembers to be ushers on the day of the event. These individuals will be standing at each entrance to help assist attendees as needed.
  • Assign staff to register attendees on the day of the event.

1 Month Prior to Event
Obtain gifts/thank you notes for vendors/speakers/team members.
Prepare team assignments for post event clean up.

1 Week Prior to Event

  • Call each speaker/vendor to ensure nothing is needed prior to their travel.
  • Confirm with event location that everything is set for the event.
  • Follow up with the meal preparers to ensure readiness for event.

1–2 Weeks Post Event

  • Combine evaluation results and provide these results to the speakers if requested.


It is important to create a document or survey to give out towards the end of the day in which attendees can share their thoughts on the event and what they thought could have been done better or what they enjoyed. This way, you will know what worked and what did not when you plan your next one!

Safety is not proprietary.

We know that your highest priority is the safety of your patient and crew. Safety is not proprietary; rather it is something to be promoted and shared among all coordinating agencies for improved service, support and outcomes for all.

       —Jana Williams, MedTrans Corporation


AAMS Vision Zero extends our deepest gratitude to the following individuals who contributed to this publication:

Tom Allenstein, MedFlight
Eveline Bisson, Metro Aviation, Inc.
Amy Conner Boutwell, Air Life Georgia
Todd Denison, Boston MedFlight
Stacy Fiscus, Haiti Air Ambulance
Jonathan Godfrey, Children’s National Medical Center
Brett Henyon, Henyon Consulting Group, University of Virginia, Pegasus Flight Operations
Susan Smith, Carilion Clinic, Roanoke, Virginia
Jana Williams, MedTrans Corporation

We would also like to thank our sponsors for their continued support and dedication towards the highest standards of safety.

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