For over thirty-three years, the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department has provided basic pre-hospital care, as well as advanced life support (ALS) to the citizens and residents of our County. As the population of the County has increased, so has our demand for pre-hospital medical care, and the growth of our emergency medical demand and capabilities experienced over the past three decades has been remarkable.
In the past three years alone, demand for EMS service delivery in Prince George’s County has increased significantly. In 2006, the Department responded to over 130,000 calls for service, with nearly sixty three percent of these responses being EMS related. In 2009, while the overall demand for Fire/EMS Department services has remained relatively steady, the volume of EMS related calls for service has increased to nearly 80% of our overall call volume.
At the inception of the ALS program in 1977, the Fire Department placed a total of three paramedic units in service, with a total staffing of twenty-six personnel. Currently, the Fire/EMS Department provides advanced life support to the citizens and residents through nineteen dedicated units staffed by over a total of three hundred personnel. In addition to Paramedic Units, ALS is also provided by Fire/EMS units throughout the County in a variety of service delivery modes, including Paramedic Engines, Paramedic Ambulances and Paramedic Supervisors. Twelve years ago the Fire Department took a significant step in official recognition of the importance of EMS to our overall mission by changing the Department name to “Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department”.
Throughout the years, this incremental increase in service demand has also prompted the Department to review a number of significant operational areas impacted by EMS expansion of services, such as Quality Assurance, staffing, deployment of units, dispatch criteria, supervision and training. To continue to provide the very best service possible and to keep up with the increasing demand; the entire methodology and a reorganization of Emergency Medical Services is currently being considered.
Newly hired recruits attending our career recruit school are educated in the arts of fighting fire, dealing with hazardous materials and the delivery of emergency medical service. Upon completion of their training, they are deployed throughout the County to provide staffing for basic life support ambulances and suppression units in all of our communities.
As new technologies have evolved, Advance Life Support education has transitioned from a vocational technical course to a higher academic standard. In order to support the educational challenge, the Department partnered in a cooperative effort with the Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) for paramedic education in 2001. This associate’s degree program is sanctioned by the Maryland Higher Education Commission. In cooperation, PGCC has adapted the ALS training curriculum to provide a schedule more compatible with the complex shifts of our employees.
Through this cooperative program, hundreds of firefighters have successfully attained the required education to become EMT- Intermediate/Paramedic and now staff units across the County providing advanced life support care. Currently, there are over 40 firefighter/students enrolled in the program. In addition, the Department’s Fire/EMS Training Academy (FETA) also provides classes for personnel to bridge from EMT-B (BLS provider) to EMT-I (Intermediate Medic). There are currently 8 students enrolled in this class.
As part of our structured commitment to training, Fire Chief Eugene A. Jones has worked closely with our Medical Director, Dr. Terry Jodrie, as well as the leadership of Maryland Institute of Emergency Medical Services, to identify new and better ways to effectively train our personnel in the use of new emergency medical technologies.
Recently, the Fire/EMS Department has enhanced its educational opportunities available at our training academy through the addition of new computer-aided interactive simulation modules. EMS simulation is the new and exciting wave in EMS education and training that is customizable to the specific needs of the individual ALS provider. With interactive simulation, providers are presented with realistic challenges similar to those experienced in the field in order to enhance learning and allow the development of critical skills. Simulations also allow instructors to evaluate performance and identify possible medical challenges in a controlled clinical environment without risk to either the patient or the provider.
The Fire/EMS Department’s ALS simulation lab includes two adult and, one pediatric “robotic” manikins, which were funded through grants from the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS). This year, the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department has been awarded a grant for $120,000 through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, taking the EMS Simulation program to the next level.
With the increased grant funding, a new EMS Simulation lab is currently under construction which will include two additional adult manikins capable of providing interactive physiologic responses through an advanced computer system. Realistic transport scenarios will also be provided through a new Ambulance Simulator which affords providers the feel of treating and transporting patients in the back of an ambulance as they would in the field. The new EMS Simulation Lab also includes an advanced digital video recording system which will be used in post-incident review, allowing providers to observe their actions and recount what occurred during critical points in the simulation exercise.
The new EMS Simulation Lab at the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Training Academy will bring “state-of-the-art” training capabilities of the Department’s ALS Education and Training Program and will serve as just one example of the improvements to EMS in Prince George's County.