Most people know that “EMS” refers to emergency medical services provided by a local fire department. However, many don’t realize that their fire agency actually responds to more emergency medical calls than fires, and that there are different levels of care it can provide when doing so.
EMS accounted for 64 percent of all Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue’s 8,827 emergency calls in 2020. The Fire District funds its emergency medical program through a six-year EMS levy of $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Voters last approved the EMS levy in 2015. Since that time, call volumes have increased 24 percent for EMS-related incidents alone. The CKFR Board of Fire Commissioners likely will ask the community to renew the EMS levy at the same voter-approved rate before it expires at the end of the year.
There are two levels of care for EMS programs that fire districts can provide. Most offer Basic Life Support (BLS) with emergency medical technicians who have completed 160 hours in first aid, CPR training, and administering some medications. This type of care is primarily for non-critical care cases.
Advanced Life Support (ALS) is the highest level of care available. ALS uses paramedics who have completed 1,800 hours of training and education on life-saving procedures such as starting IV’s, administering medications, surgical procedures to clear airways, treating injuries related to trauma emergencies, pediatric critical care and advanced cardiac life support.
CKFR provides both BLS and ALS care to residents because of funding from a voter-approved EMS levy. It runs one BLS and three ALS transport units 24-hours a day. The Fire District also takes its EMS program one step further, says Medical Officer Eric Chamberlain, who is also a firefighter/paramedic for the community.
“It’s not just a matter of having trained paramedics,” said Chamberlain. “We’re constantly learning new things and adapting to be progressive in the care we provide and medical equipment we use for savings lives.”
CKFR introduced a mechanical CPR program in 2020. Traditional CPR programs use manual chest compressions, which are labor intensive and require as many as six trained professionals to do. CKFR purchased mechanical devices that are more efficient and provide a better outcome.
The agency also worked with other fire districts to secure a grant to replace four portable ventilators last year. Ventilators are used to mechanically breathe for patients who are struggling to do so on their own. These ventilators are lightweight – only 10 pounds, and allow Paramedics to provide precise and efficient respiratory treatment for patients while in the field.
Chamberlain also is proud of CKFR’s new pediatric critical care program that uses technology to identify correct dosing amounts of medicine for children. In the past, paramedics had to do manual calculations in the field, which delayed care and was stressful for both parents and the providers.
“I’ve lived here my entire life. My whole family lives here. It’s a good feeling to know that we are constantly changing and adapting to new technology that provides our residents with the best EMS care possible,” said Chamberlain.