F.D. Ambulance Service Still Expanding
The Editor’s Opinion Page
Back in 1967 on this page we expressed a feeling we had held for a long time that a community’s ambulance service should be operated by its fire department. A lot of other people, at that time including doctors, held this opinion. They were pointing out that there is just no other service group, not even the police or hospitals, that is set up to give the instant response by trained personnel that a fire department offers. At other times we have called for an upgrading of the rescue service particularly in the area of vehicular extrication.
Well, somebody must have been listening to all of us, because the “ambulance-rescue service” (they seem to overlap) has come a long way in the last seven years. Back in 1967 we estimated that there were about 2000 fire departments with some sort of ambulance service. Today’s estimate is somewhere near 7000. Tending to back up this figure is the fact that there are now 42 ambulance manufacturers as opposed to about 15 in ‘67.
In November 1967 we reported on the “cardiograph radio transceiver” pioneered for use in vehicles by the Miami Fire Department. Miami was the “first in the nation to operate routinely a portable radio device which records the heart action of a stricken person at the scene and transmits it to a hospital.” At that time the word telemetry and the acronyms EMS and EMT were unknown in the fire service-but they are now (just read the pages of this issue).
It is significant that in the article describing Miami’s new transceiver mention was made that “the equipment has already attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Emergency Health Services, U.S. Public Health Service.” If you have been reading Fire Engineering since that article was published you know that the attention of both these agencies was more than a passing one. That attention has turned into an abiding interest that has radically changed the design of the ambulance and its associated equipment and upgraded the skills of the ambulance attendant to the highest degree.
It reached its peak with the passage of the Emergency Medical Services System Act of 1973 that was signed by President Nixon last November. This act provides money-and regulatory requirements-for the establishment and initial operation of emergency medical systems and for their expansion and improvement. On top of this the Department of Transportation can provide funds for equipment geared to handling vehicular accidents.
So, there is no longer any reason for a fire department to say it can’t get involved in ambulance-rescue activities because of lack of money or skills. Funds are waiting, and training facilities are available. Let’s get on with it.