Many partners, one leading EMS/Medic One system

For National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) week (May 19 – 25), we’re honoring the work that makes our EMS/Medic One system in King County world-class. Each weekday, we’ll share another way that EMS/Medic One works to save lives and help people in emergencies.

May 24 is EMS Recognition Day for National EMS Week. We recognize our regional partners for their hard work and dedication to make our EMS system among the leaders across the nation. It takes everyone working together — dispatchers, telecommunicators, bystanders, paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), administrative staff, and hospital partners — to provide critical services to our local communities.

Imagine the worst: someone close to you is having a cardiac arrest, your baby can’t breathe, or your spouse is in premature labor and needs help now. Will help come in time?

If you live in King County, you are fortunate. King County EMS is known for its exceptional performance in meeting national standards for emergency response times, including one of the best cardiac arrest survival rates in the nation. In 2017, King County’s cardiac arrest survival rate (known as the Utstein rate) was 56% compared to the national rate of 33%.

Every year, close to 250,000 emergency medical calls are answered in King County. Public Health – Seattle & King County, through its Emergency Medical Services Division, oversees the entire EMS system that responds to these calls, anytime day or night. The system is made up of four fire-based dispatch centers (responding to 911 calls), five paramedic providers, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), located throughout the county at 28 different fire agencies.

EMTs provide basic life support — they’re firefighters with specialized medical training and are usually first to arrive on scene. Advanced Life Support (ALS), staffed by paramedics, follows. If you need ALS, your survival often depends on the level of medical care that you receive.

It’s very much a medical profession for us – it is all that we are trained to do. You have to have a love for the job, for medicine, and the public that we serve. If you can’t love all of those things and find balance, it would be very hard to do this job.

Jessica Bernal, King County Medic One paramedic

How did King County’s system get to be one of the best? It has some of the most skilled and best trained EMTs and medics in the country, thanks to an ongoing commitment and investment in the highest-quality training. There’s a continual emphasis on research to understand what works and what can work better, always measuring and improving. And there is detailed planning and coordination throughout the entire system, to ensure that the right people are delivering the right care at the right time. Many partners, one shared mission.

To learn more about EMS in King County, visit

Originally posted on May 24, 2019.