In early 1969, Dr. Leonard A. Cobb, a Cardiologist at Harborview Medical Center, recognized that many Seattle heart attack patients could be saved if an advanced level of emergency coronary care could be delivered much earlier by ambulance personnel. For this to happen, it would then be necessary to provide specialized coronary care training and equipment in order to deliver such an advanced level of medical care outside the hospital. The Seattle Fire Department was deemed the most appropriate agency to be the foundation of delivering such capabilities and Seattle fire chief Gordon Vickery was very supportive of the concept since his department was already involved in providing medical first aid to its citizens. At the time the fire department was already operating over ten “Aid Cars” which provided emergency care at the basic medical care level through the city.
In the fall of 1969, Dr. Cobb arranged for the first class of 15 Seattle firefighters to be trained to deliver emergency coronary care procedures outside of the hospital setting. The course included over 200 hours of actual classroom instruction combined with approximately 700 clinical hours at the Harborview Medical Center. The first Seattle Fire Medic 1 unit went into service on March 7, 1970. It used a converted R/V chassis that was based at Harborview Medical Center and affectionately called the “Moby Pig.” Equipment included the recently introduced Physio-Control Life-Pak 33 portable defibrillator/EKG scope, Drug/IV kit, adjunct airway kit, 12 lead EKG machine and other essential equipment. A radio and telemetry communications capability was also established.
The laws of the State of Washington State required that a physician be present on each emergency call. Seattle fire officials visited several cities where paramedic programs were being operated without the need for on-scene physician physical supervision. In their travels, they observed the private Metro Ambulance Service paramedic program in conjunction with Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, GA (NW suburb of Atlanta) under the medical direction of Luther Fortson, MD. They also observed the Los Angeles City and County and well as the cities of Baltimore, Houston, Dallas, Jacksonville, Miami and Columbus, Ohio.
In 1972, the law was finally changed which, in effect, eliminated the need for the direct physician supervision of the Medic 1 paramedics. In 1975, the Medic One Program was expanded to other King County fire departments. A massive effort to provide cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to anyone who expressed a desire resulted in over 50% of the county’s citizens being trained. In addition all Fire Department dispatchers were able to give to callers who were willing to administer the procedures. In the early 70’s, the CBS program “60 Minutes” provided a news account of the accomplishments of the program and declared Seattle as the safest place to have a heart attack.
Keywords: seattle, medic 1, paramedic, CPR, gordon vickery, leonard cobb, Moby Pig
Last Revision Date: 7/22/11 - 8:51 AM