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Emergency Medical Service PDF Print E-mail

In the Fire Department

In the early 1960`s the medical community and the American public began to realize that emergency rooms and ambulance transport vehicles alone were not a complete solution to the need for emergency medical services. In fact, most victims of sudden illness or injury that died, did so before reaching the emergency room. The need for on scene emergency medical treatment was self-evident. Federal legislation at this time led to the development of regional EMS systems in numerous areas of the country.

Upon analysis the medical community realized that the Fire Service was a natural to deliver on the scene emergency medical care. The Fire Service already possessed the locational, vehicular, communical and organizational resources needed to provide this service. The Fire Service had already been involved to a small degree in emergency medical service for many years. Their involvement began with the use of resuscitators that had been bought to use for Firefighters overcome with smoke. As early as 1928 Fire Departments had begun to make “resuscitator runs” to citizens suffering from breathing difficulties and symptoms of heart attacks. Fire Departments had also been active in rescue,- especially rescue of victims from automobile accidents. Probably the number one reason the Fire Service was a natural for EMS was that the main mission of the Fire Service had always been the prevention of the loss of life.

In the early 1960`s the technique of CPR was devised. Some Fire Department had adopted this technique before it was officially adopted by the American Red Cross. By the late 1960`s medical journals had begun to report the dramatic results of European mobile intensive care units. A few pioneering medical doctors began to develop similar systems in different locations across the United States; and Firefighter were (almost without exception) chosen to man these early units.

By 1971 at least twenty-four such units were in operation in the United States. Also, in the same year a popular television series based on a team of Los Angeles county Fire Department paramedics was first shown. As a result citizens in many communities began to pressure local officials to develop similar programs in their Fire Departments. By 1977 there were at least 310 operational advanced life support systems in the United States, with 56.1% of all Fire Departments were providing some level of emergency medical service and 2,087 other departments planning to implement some type of emergency medical service.

Well publicized reports at this time proved that prompt handling of injuries in the field could prevent shock, reduce the severity of injuries, shorten hospital confinement, reduce the probability of permanent disability, and prevent the loss of life.

Fire Service participation in EMS varies greatly from community to community. The Fire Department contribution can include dispatch and communication, training of personnel, operation of first responder units, basic life support units, and advanced life support units ( with or without transporting services) and public education programs such as blood pressure screening and training of citizens in the technique of CPR.

Today the Fire Department is only one resource element contributing to the system. Fire, Police, Ambulance, Hospitals, and Medical Control Emergency Rooms working in coordinated effort has helped in the success of the EMS system of today.

Following the nation-wide trend to provide this service to the citizens of oneonta, The Oneonta Fire Department slowly entered the Emergency Medical Service in 1980, as then Chief Bobby Box made sure every firefighter was certified in First Aid and CPR.

In 1984 the Charles R. Montgomery was appointed Chief of the Oneonta Fire Department. Chief Montgomery was a retired Birmingham Firefighter, who himself, was one of the first certified Paramedic in the state. Chief Montgomery inspired members to seek advanced training and become certified Emergency Medical Technicians. In 1983 Chief Montgomery was able to obtain a new 1983 Mini Pumper that served as the Oneonta Fire Departments first rescue truck. He acquired specialized tools such as hydraulic cutters and spreaders in aiding in extrication of crash victims, air bags that could lift tons at a time and a cardiac monitor for evaluating heart rhythms on patients with medical problems.

The Department has since branched out into other certified specialties fields; High Angle Rescue, Confined Space Rescue, hazardous materials paramedic (Tox-Medic), Vehicle extrication, and Technical Rescue, all which require specialized training and certification through State Agencies. In the 60`s and 70`s Fire Departments were asked to be dual purpose. in the present day, we are multi-purposed Departments.

Today, the Oneonta Fire Department has two Advanced Life Support units severing the citizens of Oneonta, each capable of responding to all types of emergencies whether it’s a fire, medical emergency, vehicle accident, weather event, hazardous material spill or any other incident that may be within our mission, which is to prevent the loss of life.