Welcome to our first of 12 blogs named the “Operational Series”. The Series will post every Sunday (with the exception of this one posting on Monday), offering information related to how the fire service operates. Our first blog will focus on the vital life-saving Medic Engine.
Operational Series: The Medic Engine
Medic Engines are relatively new to the County of Ventura. The concept turned reality in 1996 and has expanded countywide, with the majority of fire departments offering the service. A Medic Engine is a Fire Engine Company which performs all the standard functions of a Fire Engine Company such as fire suppression, rescue, vehicle stabilization, public assistance and emergency medical services. However, in the area of emergency medical, services are enhanced by having a licensed and accredited paramedic as an engine company crew member.
The basic life support fire engine company crew consists of a Fire Captain, a Fire Engineer, and a Firefighter/EMT. This type of fire company is very effective and plays a significant role in emergency response. However, a medic engine can perform even more efficiently by providing all of the standard services of the fire engine company in addition to offering advanced life support medical services. The standard fire company of this type of engine consists of a Fire Captain, Fire Engineer and a Firefighter/Paramedic.
To be eligible to function in the dual role of a Firefighter/Paramedic, the engine company crew member must either be a seasoned paramedic or a newly employed or certified paramedic acting as a second medic on the engine while being trained. Since there are normally 3 persons on an engine company, it is vital to ensure the Firefighter/Paramedic has the competence and experience necessary to provide optimal patient care as the primary paramedic on a given engine company crew.
The Ventura County Emergency Medical Services Agency requires all paramedics serving as the sole medic on a company be documented as a “Level II” medic. In order to acquire and maintain this level, the medic must meet a stringent criterion. This criterion begins with paramedic accreditation to Ventura County. Once approved, the incoming paramedic will serve in the role of a Level I paramedic until 288 hours of practice or 30 patient contacts (15 of those must require advanced life support intervention) are obtained.
To advance further to Level II status, that paramedic must serve an additional 288 hours and include 30 more patient contacts (15 requiring advanced life support intervention). The paramedic must also successfully complete a scenario based skills assessment, a written policy competency exam and an arrhythmia recognition and treatment assessment exam. Scores on all assessments must be at least 80%. If the incoming paramedic has previous field experience of at least 4000 hours of paramedic service, the requirement numbers for hours and contacts decrease.
As you have read, there is a significant amount of planning and training involved with staffing a paramedic fire engine company. The reward is high though, as fire departments who staff medic engines are providing their communities with an extremely effective, life-saving, dual role fire company.