Thurston County News


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Meghan Porter

Bryan Dominique

Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Thurston County Celebrates Emergency Medical Services Week
CPR saves lives, and Dr. Mark Layton can attest to that. Dr. Layton, a cardiac arrest survivor, and the people who were involved in saving his life reunite to reflect on what happened that day.

Early on the morning of August 4, 1974, the first units to serve the citizens of Thurston County's Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system went into operation.

Over the years, as the county has grown, demand for EMS services has increased since Medic One's inception in 1974. EMS calls in 1999 were 15,688. By 2009, there were 26,469 EMS calls, and in 2019 there were 35,985. In 2021, call volume was 37,837, up 14% from 2020! The top five call types were:

  • Falls: 3,713
  • General Weakness: 2,223
  • Chest Pain: 2,145
  • Abdominal Pain: 1,809
  • Respiratory Distress (shortness of breath): 1,520

Thurston County has what is called a tiered response system, with the first tier starting with bystanders. To support this tier, Thurston County Medic One offers free hands only CPR classes  to Thurston County residents.  Residents can sign up online for CPR classes or they can contact Medic One directly. The survivability of a cardiac arrest patient increases dramatically if they are receiving CPR prior to the arrival of first responders.

Medic One also works with private businesses, state and county agencies, and civic groups to organize classes at their facilities.  A typical hands only CPR class includes adult CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED) information and practice on mannequins. Hands only CPR classes can be done during a lunch hour, or can be extended and customized to incorporate any special needs of the group.

The second tier is Basic Life Support, or BLS, provided by all 12 fire agencies in Thurston County. This tier is usually the first to arrive on scene and the backbone of the system. BLS units are staffed with 2 – 4 Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT).  Medic One provides EMT training to all 12 fire agencies at no cost to them.

The third and final tier is Advanced Life Support, or ALS. This is paramedic support for advanced lifesaving support that follows a set of protocols and skills that extend beyond BLS.  Examples of ALS calls are cardiac emergencies, respiratory emergencies, strokes, and trauma.  ALS support is provided at no cost for treatment and transport, as this is Medic One levy funded.

"I believe nearly every soul in this county has been touched by our EMS system and many can attest to that impact. But our caregivers, our responders, do not do this job for public acclaim, but for their own private recognition that they make a difference," said Dr. Larry Fontanilla, Medical Program Director for Medic One. "This is why I hope to remain a part of Thurston County Medic One, and all of the good work that they do, for many years to come."

If you're interested in joining Thurston County's EMS community, Thurston County Medic One conducts two initial EMT courses per year.  These courses are provided with funding from the Medic One levy and are free of charge for personnel (volunteer or paid) who are affiliated with Thurston County Fire Departments. The EMT course is approximately 18 weeks in duration and includes training and education in anatomy and physiology, patient exam, trauma and medical emergencies, and many other aspects of patient care.  Upon successful completion of the course, students will become certified as EMTs and work as 9-1-1 responders taking care of our residents in Thurston County.

"I feel truly privileged to have been a part of this system for close to ten years. Excellence and professionalism, coupled with an innate sense of duty and heartfelt care for their communities, makes all of these providers a pleasure to work with," added Dr. Fontanilla. "These providers, from young volunteers to career professionals, make this system, and they make this system great."

County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3