History of the Rescue Division
In April of 1967, local funeral homes and private ambulance companies discontinued answering emergency alarms due to a financial dispute with the City of Jacksonville over subsidies. An Ad Hoc Committee, composed of area physicians, a police official, a fire chief, and other involved parties, was appointed by the Mayor to provide a workable solution to the problem. During the interim, three fire chiefs cars, staffed with a chief and two firefighters, were placed into service as emergency medical transport vehicles. This continued for six weeks, at which time the private companies resumed answering emergency calls.
On November 9th, 1967, after an attorney for the private ambulance companies had tried to negotiate for subsidies from the City of Jacksonville, an edict from the Mayor was issued. Beginning at Noon on November 9th, 1967, the Jacksonville Fire Division was to assume the responsibility for emergency care to the residents of Jacksonville. The edict was quickly followed by Jacksonville City Ordinance #GG-75 and Bill #GG-92, confirming the service. There would be no subsidy for private systems.
Rescue, as it is known today, was born.
The person selected to head the new Rescue and First Aid Branch was Fire Chief James a Dowling Jr. Chief Dowling was assigned the monumental task of developing a new method for delivering emergency care and transportation to the sick and injured citizens of Jacksonville.
The Rescue Division began with six station wagons assigned to various areas of the city and manned by fire chiefs and firefighters.
Six modular type vehicles were ordered with funds for the purchase assured through a 50/50 Federal Department of Transportation grant. These units were equipped with two-way voice communications that allowed each rescue unit radio contact with emergency departments, law enforcement agencies, and base stations at all times. As the modular units were placed in service, the station wagons were phased out.
The first firefighter/ambulance attendants were given an updated American Red Cross First Aid refresher course, followed by more extensive training as the system progressed.
The initial objective of the Rescue Division was to move the sick and injured patients to the hospital emergency department in the most expedient manner possible. Basic care was provided, however, the emphasis was on speedy placement in the emergency department.
It was quickly recognized that only a very small percentage of the patients seen required rapid transportation. In fact, it was apparent that many patients should have high quality stabilization rather than rapid transportation. The trend quickly changed. Increased and expanding training programs were developed to meet the demands of a new concept in emergency medical care. This new concept included sending a Combat apparatus on emergency calls in conjunction with the Rescue unit because of their close proximity.
This system of sending first response Combat companies and Rescue units necessitated the increased training of firefighters in Basic Life Support (BLS) and stabilization of the acutely ill or injured patients and assisting Rescue crews on the scene of emergencies. The system paid off in the saving of many lives and showed the obvious need for having a high number of first response rescue crews.
As the trend began to change from rapid transportation to field stabilization, additional training courses were designed for the rescue crew members. The training included instruction in necessary skills for handling medical emergencies, extrication methods from all types of transportation, and 50 hours of training in hospitals under physician supervision.
During the first few years, no one knew which direction the Rescue Division would take. There was little available information relating to advanced pre-hospital care or emergency rescue procedures. Because of this shortage of information, a group of local physicians, headed by Dr. Roy Baker, developed a small, one-hundred page booklet containing a group of physicians’ lectures. The booklet became the first structured training manual for Advanced Life Support (ALS) instruction.
On October 1st, 1968, Duval County and the City of Jacksonville consolidated into one government, thus extending the range of emergency medical service from 39 square miles to 826 square miles. To meet this added responsibility, five additional modular units were proposed. This would bring the total to 10 active units. However, it took until 1972 to get the tenth unit into service.
As the Rescue Division matured, it became apparent that more specialized training was desperately needed. In 1969, the Life Pak III was demonstrated, bringing with it space-age technological telemetry that was introduced as a new concept in pre-hospital care. Training in these new systems was organized in conjunction with the use of drugs and medications in pre-hospital care. Drug boxes were placed aboard rescue units. However, only a physician, when present on scene, had the authority and technical knowledge to use them.
By late 1969, a new title for qualified ambulance attendants was authorized by the National Department of Transportation. The new title, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), was adopted by the Jacksonville Rescue Division and a test was developed to designate a crew supervisor as an EMT via civil service examination. However, since the term of EMT designated a level of competency which was to be a goal of all fire-rescue personnel. The Supervisor’s title reverted to Fire-Rescue Lieutenant. Ten officers were promoted, one for each Rescue unit and one for vacation/relief. Under the new supervision, the units continued to deliver more advanced stabilization of the sick and injured.
Life Pak III monitors, demonstrated in 1969, were placed on four units, as well as the base station in the St. Luke’s Hospital Emergency Department, in July of 1970. Intravenous solutions, defibrillation, and cardiac medications were now being provided by the Rescue Division. As a result of these improvements, more total cardiac arrest patients were saved. In September of 1970, the telemetry base station was moved from St. Luke’s Hospital to Memorial Hospital, where it was to remain for several years.
The highlight for the Rescue Division in 1970 came when it was announced that Chief Dowling and a team of five Rescue Firefighters won the International Rescue and First Aid Competition in Atlantic City New Jersey.
In 1971, a grant in excess of three million dollars was awarded to the City of Jacksonville to develop an eight county emergency medical service area. The next five years were spent developing and improving the delivery of emergency medical services to the surrounding counties. Also during this time, representatives from may large cities came to study the Jacksonville system. Jacksonville became the prototype and was instrumental in advising such systems as Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Houston, and many others.
After the failure to establish the Physicians’ Assistant program at Florida Junior College, an EMT program for rescue was developed in the fall of 1973. Through this program, all EMTs were given DHRS registry examinations and certified. This program was the forerunner of what was to become one of the finest EMS training programs in Florida.
Because of the increasing responsibilities of the Rescue Division and its personnel, it was determined that more supervisory personnel were needed. The first Captain’s examination was given in 1974, allowing each rescue unit to fall under the command of a Captain who was responsible for the company, with a Lieutenant in charge of each shift.
A new concept in rapid inter-county hospital transfers was introduced to the system in 1974. Eight helicopter transports were made in coordination with regional military systems. This proved to be a valuable tool in emergency pre-hospital transportation and has also proved to be essential in rapid transportation from emergency scenes.
As the system continued to progress, the DHRS/EMSS scheduled the first Paramedic certification test in March of 1976, and five local employees became the first state of Florida certified Paramedics. As a result, at least one Paramedic was assigned to each unit per shift.
Continued demand on an expanding system caused the addition of four more rescue units by 1977.
Due to the rapid growth in workload, three District Chiefs were promoted from the ranks in 1978. These Chiefs would become Rescue 103 and provide further technical supervision to an increasingly expanding and highly sophisticated system.
1980 saw the appointment of a new Public Safety Director. Irvin L. Griffin brought about a complete restructuring of the Fire Division. Rescue took a new turn on 1981 with the appointment of Chief P.N. Rudin as the Rescue Division’s administrative head.
The 1980's saw the expansion of the Rescue Division and an increase of the size of the rescue units. Also in the 1980's Jacksonville's Rescue Division experienced its worst event- the GMAC Shooting. 1986 sees the Rescue Division add a second Rescue Chief to the Division, Rescue 104.
The 1990's saw The JFRD Rescue Division expand even more, with the addition of many rescues. A new style of rescue unit came into service with the introduction of the Freightliner Rescues. EMS makes up over 75% of the emergencies responded to by the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department. The number of Paramedics is increased. Advanced EMS services are expanded outside of the rescue division as several engines are now designated as Advanced Life Support engines. The JFRD now also starts to offer EMS services through the Special Events office.
As the JFRD Rescue Division moved into the 21st century, so did the service it delivered. Division Chief of Rescue Charles Moreland assumed command of the Division in 2003 and, at 32, became the youngest Division Chief in the history of the JFRD. Within his first three years, four additional rescue units are added (17, 21, 57, 58) with Rescues 49 and 59 placed in service October 2006 and January 2007 respectively. The JFRD takes delivery of several new 4-door rescue units and steps up training with special classes on drug doses and effects.
A third Rescue Chief, Rescue 105, is added to accomodate the expanding division. Moreland is instrumental in the formation of the JFRD SWAT Medic program and increases the number of Advanced Life Support Engines in the city. A bonus for members assigned to the Rescue Division starts October 2005 and the incentive for paramedic is also increased. In April of 2006, the drug Clonidine is now issued to Advanced Life Support Compaines.
On October 1st, 2008, Rescues 25 and 54 are placed into service. A 10-year plan is also introduced to include Rescues at 26, 29, 48, 56, 60, and 61. The Rescue Division also assumed control of the Marine Safety Division.