History of the EMS Division
The New Castle County Paramedic Service can trace its roots to the New Castle County Ambulance Service that was initiated under the County Levy Court system with a single ambulance covering all of New Castle County, including the City of Wilmington, in October 1933. Another unit dedicated to Wilmington later augmented the single ambulance. During this period, County Levy Court ambulances had a caseload comprised of approximately 50% medical emergencies and 50% non-emergency transports that took patients to and from hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices.
In May 1961, basic ambulance services were expanded to include another unit dedicated to the areas south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. With the increases in demand for emergency and non-emergency service, the County Ambulance Service expanded once again to permit the designation of vehicles and personnel exclusively for emergency responses.
In 1974, the County Ambulance Division, Wilmington Medical Center, Delaware Heart Association, and Doctors for Emergency Service initiated a joint effort to establish advanced life support (ALS) “paramedic” services as a pilot program. The ALS paramedic program represented an entirely different concept in pre-hospital patient care. The first paramedic unit in Delaware was based in the City of Wilmington and was dedicated on January 5, 1976 in Rodney Square.
It remained a pilot program for the next four years while several studies were undertaken to determine the methods to be used for any further expansion of the ALS services. The most noteworthy of these studies were reports by the Arthur D. Little Company and the Emergency Medical Services Task Force Report.
As the need and value of paramedic services was realized, the county initiated an expansion into the areas outside the City of Wilmington. In 1978, a second paramedic unit was stationed in the area south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal at what would become EMS Station No. 5.
Over the next two years, much effort went into the planning and coordinating of both existing and future services. The Ambulance Advisory Board was established to meet these planning needs and developed a “five station plan.” Additionally, non-emergency transportation services were discontinued in order to concentrate on the proposed ALS paramedic services program expansion.
From 1980 to 1982, the Ambulance Division completed its most rapid period of expansion. A third paramedic unit was added in 1980 and assigned to EMS Station No. 2 on Summerville Road in New Castle. In March 1981, a fourth paramedic unit was assigned to the County Engineering Building on Kirkwood Highway, which became known as EMS Station No. 3. The completion of the five-station deployment plan was observed in November 1981 when the fifth paramedic unit was placed in the Claymont Fire Company sub-station located at Marsh and Naamans Road. This location became known as EMS Station No. 4.
During November of 1989, a County Council ordinance officially changed the name of the Department of Public Safety Ambulance Division to the Emergency Medical Services Division. The change in designation acknowledged the professional level of service provided by the division.
In 1990 the Delaware legislature enacted the Delaware Paramedic Services Act with the purpose of establishing a statewide paramedic program under the medical direction of the state Office of Emergency Medical Services. Under the provisions of the Act, the New Castle County Emergency Medical Services Division was authorized two additional paramedic units, which were deployed in the Glasgow (EMS Station No. 6) and Prices Corner (EMS Station No. 7) areas.
In September 1998 the New Castle County Paramedics initiated pre-hospital 12-lead ECG capability for potential victims of heart attacks. The new initiative permitted the paramedics to detect heart attacks in the field and mobilize hospital resources even before the patient arrived at the hospital. The first "heart alert" patient was identified within two hours of the new equipment being placed on all New Castle County paramedic units.
The Emergency Medical Services Division initiated its Tactical Emergency Medical Support (TEMS) program by providing tactical paramedics to the New Castle County Police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. The "SWAT medics" provide medical support to the law enforcement special operations team and have supported local, state and federal agencies since the initiation of the program. New Castle County EMS was the first paramedic service in Delaware to deploy tactical paramedics as an integrated component of a law enforcement SWAT team.
On October 19, 2000 over 250 members of the Emergency Medical Services Division, guests and dignitaries gathered at the DuPont Country Club to celebrate the 25th anniversary of paramedic services in New Castle County.
In November 2002, a “power shift” paramedic unit (EMS Station No. 8) was added during peak call volume periods. "Medic 8" was later converted to 24-hour operations in August 2008, resulting in the full time assignment of two New Castle County paramedic units to the City of Wilmington.
On February 24, 2004, New Castle County implemented an EMS Career Development Plan through unanimous vote of the County Council. The plan established different paramedic ranks in recognition of experience, education, professional credentials, and participation in additional activities and projects. The plan also added field supervisors with the rank of Paramedic Sergeant to each shift.
On January 10, 2007 the Emergency Medical Services Division added a second "power shift" paramedic unit (EMS Station No. 9) during the day shift hours, seven days a week. During the hours of Medic 9's operation, the power shift unit will move to the Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Company Fire Station on Ogletown Road.
In June 2009 the New Castle County Paramedics initiated a cooling procedure called "induced hypothermia" for sudden cardiac arrest patients that are revived in the field. The cooling procedure lowers the patient's body temperature to preserve brain function and reduce the possibility of permanent brain injury from the event.
The Emergency Medical Services Division of the Department of Public Safety becomes the first EMS agency in Delaware to achieve national accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS). The CAAS accreditation verifies that the New Castle County Paramedics meet the "gold standard" for a modern emergency medical service. New Castle County EMS was the first ALS-intercept agency to ever complete the CAAS accreditation process.
The New Castle County Paramedics are issued lactate meters and thermometers to assist in the early recognition and treatment of the silent killer known as "sepsis." The early identification of patients needing rapid sepsis treatment can reduce mortality and length of hospital stay. Receiving hospitals initiate a treatment protocol upon receiving a "sepsis alert" notification by the paramedics.
New Castle County EMS hosted the first annual Sudden Cardiac Arrest Survivors Reunion at the Department of Public Safety Headquarters. The event offered an opportunity for sudden cardiac arrest survivors to reunite with the responders that contributed to their successful discharge from the hospital. New Castle County Paramedics awarded Pre-hospital Sudden Cardiac Arrest Save Citations to the dispatchers, police officers, firefighters, basic EMT's and paramedics that were involved in each case.
Today, the EMS Division operates eight paramedic units on a 24 hour basis and nine paramedic units during peak call volume times. The paramedic units operate in a tiered response configuration with the basic life support (BLS) ambulances of the volunteer fire service and contractual ambulance service for the City of Wilmington. Two field supervisors, or Paramedic Sergeants, are deployed on a 24-hour basis. Each shift is under the command of an EMS Lieutenant.
New Castle County paramedics are certified through the state Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline, utilize statewide standardized treatment protocols and standing orders for delivery of advanced life support (ALS), and have a fully-implemented 12-Lead ECG, CPAP and pre-hospital induced hypothermia capability on all paramedic units. Special operations capabilities include an ALS Bike Team, SWAT Paramedics, and the ability to deploy a multi-casualty incident support unit.
The Emergency Medical Services Division conducts an annual Graduation and Appointment Ceremony during National Emergency Medical Services Week. With the recognition of our newest members of the Service, our tradition of “Excellence in Service” continues.