The History of Our EMS Program
In 1966, the National Academy of Sciences published "Accidental Death and Disability, the Neglected Disease of Modern Society" which was considered a landmark in the development of the emergency medical services' (EMS) system of care in the United States. Shortly thereafter, Congress passed the Highway Safety Act that established the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) which provided legislative authority and funds to states to develop effective EMS programs.
The city's fire department has provided medical assistance throughout the community, and had always been known as leaders/innovators in this field. The city purchased and placed into service an oxygen powered breathing device called an "inhalator" and traveled as far as Lincoln County back in 1947 to aid a drowning victim.
In 1974, St. Charles Fire Department partnered with SSM St. Joseph Health Center who began its training its firefighters as paramedics at the request of the Fire Chief, Edward B. Underwood. Dorothy Herzog was the head nurse in the Emergency Room and took on the role of educating the new paramedics and developing a curriculum of instruction from a variety of sources previously reserved for in-hospital medical care. The city's firefighter's were prepared and ready to certify 6 months before the State of Missouri had developed the testing.
The St. Charles City Fire Department began operating the advanced life support ambulance, the first of its kind in this area, in 1974. Initially, it only responded to life threatening injuries due to being "too specialized and vital" to be sent on routine cases. Back then, "routine" ambulance requests were handled by private ambulance services until the St. Charles County Ambulance District was formed and began operation in 1976.
Becoming More Advanced
In 2002, to complement the paramedic firefighters who were already staffing them, every fire truck in the City of St. Charles was outfitted with the same emergency cardiac defibrillators and cardiac drugs as the ambulances. The engines and ladders also became "Advance Life Support" or ALS units and were able to bring paramedic care to the citizens and visitors of the City of St. Charles much more quickly than waiting for ambulances that were more scarce.
With the addition of automatic vehicle locator technology, an agreement was drafted with the county adopting a policy of sending the "closest paramedics" in critical emergencies no matter the agency or jurisdiction. Today, the City of St. Charles is served by firefighter paramedics on ambulances and fire trucks, as well as county paramedics.