HISTORY OF
EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES

Late 1960s

Dr. Walter Graf, at Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital, pioneered the concept of the Coronary Care Rescue ambulance. Simultaneously, Dr. J. Michael Criley launched a program at Harbor General Hospital that utilized firefighters to respond to medical emergencies.

1969
  • August
    • McCormick Ambulance company utilized a large white vehicle staffed with a coronary care nurse-on call, to respond to heart attack victims from Daniel Freeman Hospital.
  • August
    • Six firefighters from the Los Angeles County Fire Department began their training at Harbor General Hospital.
  • December 8
    • Squad 59, the first Los Angeles County Fire rescue unit, headquartered in a small fire station on the grounds of Harbor General Hospital, officially went into service. Coronary Care Unit nurses from Harbor rode along to supervise field care because there was no legislation permitting paramedics to practice.
1970

On July 14th, the Wedworth-Townsend Paramedic Act was signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan and the first paramedics were officially “certified.”

1972

The show EMERGENCY! produced by Robert Cinader was first televised. This series raised public awareness of the paramedic program and, as a result, such programs sprang up throughout the country.

1972-1974

The paramedic program expanded as many other cities sent fire department personnel to paramedic training. L.A. County received a federal grant to fund the training.

1974

Dr. Ronald Stewart, an emergency medicine physician, was placed in charge of the paramedic training program and expanded the training to cover a myriad of prehospital health care emergencies. Dr. Stewart modified the paramedic curriculum and wrote his own unique “paramedic training manuals,” consisting of four volumes.

1978

Continuing education programs were put into place, along with a new process, which included written and skills examinations, requiring paramedics to “recertify.”

1979

The EMS Commission was established by County Ordinance.

1980

In November, the Emergency Medical Service and Emergency Medical Care Personnel Act (SB125) was signed into law mandating State responsibility for emergency medical services by designation of a local EMS Agency. The County Board of Supervisor authorized the Department of Health Services to fill this role.

1983

December 15th, the first eight Level I trauma hospitals were designated and activated by the Board of Supervisors.

1984

Hospitals with capability of handling specialized needs of children were designated as Emergency Departments Approved for Pediatrics and Pediatric Critical Care Centers.

1987

EMT Defibrillation Program

1989

Testing and certification of paramedics was transferred from the local counties to the State.

1988

EMS System

2001

Nine nursing instructors joined the organization to provide field education to each of the Department’s field divisions.

1994

By statute, paramedic certification was changed to “licensure” and testing was eliminated from the relicensure process.

2002

A new EMS database is implemented to report and track EMS call types, chief complaints and care delivery.

2003

Beginning of Advance Cardiac Life Support and Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support.

2004

All Air Operations paramedics trained in National Standards an ACLS, PHTLS and Pediatrics.

2005

I2 Lead EKG program launches with a $3 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation.

2019

Fifty years of EMS services were celebrated at the Los Angeles County Fire Museum.

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