Medic One Frequently Asked Questions

What is Thurston County Medic One "Tiered Response"?

How do we provide the most rapid response with only six paramedic vehicles?

How can citizens get involved?

How many basic life support (BLS) units are there? What is their response time? Why does a fire engine come for a medical call? What care do they give?

Why does the Fire Department come for a medical aid call?

What exactly are "paramedics"? What kind of care can they give different than an EMT? Why is it necessary to have two paramedics when someone calls?

What happens when someone calls 9-1-1 for help?

Multiple units on scene, why?

Is there a fee for these vehicles?

What information should I have ready if I need to call 9-1-1 for EMS help?

Who are the licensed EMS response agencies in Thurston County Medic One/EMS System?

How does Thurston County Medic One/EMS System compare to other areas regarding cardiac arrest resusciation survival? Click to see report July 2012

What is Thurston County Medic One "Tiered Response"?

Responding is seconds, arriving in minutes

Thurston County Medic One/ Emergency Services (EMS) system is a comprehensive, multiple agency, county-wide EMS system. When a person needs emergency medical help, emergency medical responders stand ready to provide. Within seconds of someone dialing 9-1-1, EMS personnel are responding to your call for help. The coordinated Medic One EMS system is able to respond basic life support (BLS) personnel within and average of 6.7 minutes and paramedics within an average of 7.6 minutes across the 727 square miles of Thurston County.


How do we provide the most rapid response with only seven paramedic vehicles?

County-wide emergency help is provided as tiered response. County-wide advanced paramedic care in 7.6 minutes is fast but, that may not be fast enough if you've stopped breathing, heart has stopped beating or are bleeding seriously. Tiered response means that there is more than one level of EMS care. The first level of EMS care is the informed citizen, the second is basic life support and the third level is paramedic advanced life support. Tiered response helps improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Medic One/EMS System by matching the patient's emergency need with the right level of emergency response.


How can citizens get involved?

The first tier is our citizens.....

The Thurston County Medic One/EMS system trains citizens of the importance in accessing emergency medical help quickly through 9-1-1. The EMS system also trains citizens how to perform Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and the importance of recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack. PLEASE LEARN CPR, YOU CAN HELP SAVE A LIFE! The EMS System is also becoming active in prevention. Education is providing information on bicycle safety, trauma prevention and seatbelt safety. Contact Medic One for a convenient CPR Class for you and your family (see CPR Training on this website). Click here for CPR Training schedule.


How many basic life support (BLS) units are there? What is their response time? Why does a fire engine come for a medical call? What medical care do they give?

The second tier is our basic life support personnel.....

There are 15 Fire jurisdictions in Thurston County. Each Fire Department has from one to four stations. There are multiple aid units across the county. Because there are multiple BLS units stationed around the county, a BLS unit is usually within 6 minutes of the call for help (see up to date response time by jurisdiction on this page). Some of the aid units are Aid vans some are Fire Engines outfitted with medical equipment. All BLS Aid vehicles have medical equipment and personnel that must meet state standards for licensed EMS agencies. BLS vehicles carry, computerized defibrillators to shock the heart, equipment to assist breathing and oxygen, bandages for bleeding and splints for broken bones. BLS personnel are educated in a three month program to perform life saving medical procedures. Advanced procedures that enter a patients body or the giving of medications requires advanced paramedic level of care. Some Fire Departments outfit their personnel with personal aid kits. Volunteer EMS personnel can then respond more quickly from their home directly to the neighbor that called for help.


Why does the Fire Department come for a medical aid call?

BLS Personnel are dual role and *% are volunteers.....

Most Fire services personnel are cross trained and state certified as EMS personnel. This dual role responsibility makes a large group available for EMS response and initial basic life support medical care. Nearly *% are volunteers but paid or volunteer all dual role personnel are responsible for two jobs. When not performing one they are available to respond and perform the other.


What exactly are "paramedics"? What kind of care can they give different than an EMT? Why is it necessary to have two paramedics when someone calls?

The third tier, advanced life support paramedics.....

Paramedic units are staffed with two paramedics (medics). Paramedics are trained for two years of classroom and field training. Paramedics perform advanced diagnosis, perform invasive procedures (airway breathing tubes, intravenous, surgical procedures and medications administration). Medic Vehicles are equipped with sophisticated emergency equipment usually only found in a hospital emergency room. Two Medics working together are able to quickly access patient needs, perform life saving treatments, talk to an emergency doctor and package the patient for rapid transport to the most appropriate emergency medical care facility, while providing ongoing care en route to the hospital. If there are multiple patients on the scene, dual medic crews can split up and each takes care of a patient. Enough equipment is available to transport patients in separate vehicles, transport vehicles can transport multiple patients lying down. Medic One Paramedic units are stationed in urban, suburban and rural areas of Thurston County. Of those seven paramedic units, six are dual paramedic staffed transport vehicles staffed 24 hours a day / 7 days a week with one additionally staffed as a peak hour staffed unit (averaging 16 hours each day). Southwest county area is now staffed with a dual staffed, 24/7, transport unit upgraded in 2012 from a SPRINT (Single Paramedic Rapid Intervention Non Transport) vehicle. The northeast peak hour staffed unit has been phased into a 24/7 dual paramedic transport unit. Phase up was completed in 2014 for a full dual paramedic, 24/7, transport unit.

What happens when someone calls 9-1-1 for help?


When calls are received at the 9-1-1 center (Thurston County Department of Communications/TCOMM), the address is traced and confirmed. The closest available EMS unit is sent to the address. Dispatchers will instruct callers to perform emergency care if possible. BLS personnel are sent on every call for emergency medical help. The dispatcher will ask a series of questions to decide if the paramedic vehicle is necessary. One of the advanced paramedic vehicles will be sent if the patient needs advanced emergency care. If paramedic care is not required, the paramedics are reserved for the next life threatening problem requiring advanced level of care. About half of the over 26,570 EMS calls for help last year required paramedic dispatch. If dispatchers feel the call may best be handled by talking to a nurse, the dispatcher may ask the calling party for permission to transfer the call to a 24 hour nurse line. The nurse line will be able to give medical advice over the phone and advise the caller about when to see their doctor for a follow up.

Multiple units on scene, why?

Because of tiered response, multiple vehicles may respond to the emergency scene. The closest BLS vehicle (average within 7 minutes) this may be an aid van or a fire engine. If an advanced life support paramedic vehicle was necessary the closest paramedic vehicle (usually within 8 minutes) will be sent. If a private ambulance company vehicle responded, it may be a third vehicle on the scene. On auto accidents, fires or other complex scenes a fire services command vehicle may also be present, temporarily as needed. If the patient needs transportation to a high level trauma center, a helicopter may be called to the scene or to the hospital for transport to Seattle.

Rapid on scene care, assistance en route....

BLS and ALS personnel work together on the scene to rapidly determine the patient's needs, provide treatments, communicate with the hospital and transport the patient(s) to the most appropriate medical facility. Frequently, BLS personnel will ride with ALS personnel and patient to the hospital, driving or assisting medics with care en route.

Is there a fee for these vehicles?

If a Medic One paramedic vehicle provides life critical transport to the hospital there is no fee, for Medic One paramedic advanced life support response or transport. Medic One has never charged a fee for paramedic transport since it was established in 1974. Original Founders of Medic One wanted to insure that persons with a life threatening emergency medical need would not hesitate calling for help when they needed it due worrying about a fee for service. The entire county-wide Medic One/EMS system's annual operating expense is supported by a Medic One EMS levy. The Medic One/EMS Levy was authorized by voters at 50 cents per $1,000 property valuation in September 1999 and property tax collection began in January 2000. If paramedic ALS transport is not necessary, the patient may be given the option to be transported by commercial or public BLS ambulance, go with a relative, or schedule a future appointment with their private doctor. If the commercial or public basic life support ambulance is chosen, ambulances (non-Medic One advanced life support agencies) charge a fee for transport. Commercial ambulances are funded by fees and public ambulances are funded by a combination of fee and property tax. Commercial ambulances are licensed by the State and County. Both commercial and public ambulance fees are public record. Those BLS/EMT ambulance transport fees for 2014 are as follows: 

  • AMR Ambulance Base Rate $830.18 plus $17.87/mile 

  • Olympic Ambuance Base Rate $750 plus $16/mile 

  • West Thurston Regional Fire Authority (Rochester/Littlerock Fire Districts) Base Rate $450 plus $14/mile

  • Fire District #9 Mclane/Fire District #5 Black Lake Base Rate $450 plus $11/mile


What information should I have ready if I need to call 9-1-1 for EMS help?

  • Information that will help emergency medical responders:

  • Name

  • Age

  • Current medical conditions

  • Former medical conditions/procedures that affect health care

  • Current medications: name of medication, purpose, dosage

  • Allergies

  • Physician name and phone number

  • Emergency contacts names and phone numbers

  • Insurance coverage information

  • Advanced medical directive documentation (see POLST clicking this link opens a window to WA Department of Health website)

Who are the licensed EMS response agencies in Thurston County Medic One/EMS System? Click this link for a list of Thurston County prehospital EMS agencies.