In times of accident, illness or injury, EMTs and paramedics are vital, rapid response lifesavers. May 19-25, 2024, celebrates the 50th anniversary of National EMS Week as well as the 50th birthday of Thurston County Medic One. During this year’s celebrations, we can all take a minute to honor and recognize the hard-working, tireless souls who provide this crucial service when we need it most.

This is the first Medic One crew from 1974, when they began working around the clock to help Thurston County residents in times of illness, accident and injury. Photo courtesy: Thurston County Medic One

Thurston County’s EMTs and Paramedics: Heroes When We Need Them Most

Ben Miller-Todd is Thurston County’s Director of Emergency Services. He says that our region is special because we started localized EMS services very early on. Nationally, the first squads formed in the late 1960s and Thurston County’s took off just a few years later in 1974. “It’s fantastic that our system started in the infancy of these programs,” says Miller-Todd, “and EMS week coincides perfectly as we honor the hard work and energy of our teams.”

Thurston County Medic One partners with more than 600 EMTs and paramedics, many of whom are career service members. But some nearby districts, like Bald Hills and Bucoda for example, still rely on 100% volunteer squads while others are blended agencies of career employees and volunteers.

1974’s Aid 7 crew helped forge new pathways with Medic One’s founding. This year, celebrate May’s EMS Week by honoring their service. Photo courtesy: Thurston County Medic One

For a little background: EMS, or emergency medical services, is the field of emergency medicine which encompasses EMTs, or emergency medical technicians, and paramedics. Both fields, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, show steady growth potential in projected employment data, as our population ages.

Thurston County Medic One coordinates prehospital emergency medical services. Miller-Todd explains that the EMS system is “designed for rapid, coordinated response to all Thurston County residents so that residents receive exceptional prehospital care.” He praises our region’s “heavily cooperative and county-wide integration and collaboration because the end goal of every decision is promoting the improved health and welfare of residents of Thurston County.”

1982 may seem like a long time ago mustache-wise but these paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s) saved lives every day. Photo courtesy: Thurston County Medic One

Celebrating Thurston County and National EMS Services and Providers

Each day of EMS Week is themed under the overarching mission of Honoring Our Past, Forging Our Future.

Sunday is Health, Wellness, and Resilience Day and dedicated to self-care for the EMTs, paramedics and patients they see every day.

Monday’s Education Day focuses on continuing education for practitioners but also community educational programs.

Tuesday is EMS Safety Day, which spotlights stress reduction, mental health awareness programs, improved situational awareness, driving and roadway safety, vehicle and device maintenance, proper lifting techniques and violence awareness.

Wednesday is EMS for Children Day, which looks at the distinctive physiological and psychological aspects of caring for children in emergencies.

Friday is EMS Recognition Day, honoring local heroes

Saturday is EMS Remembrance Day to recognize those who have died in the line of duty.

Thursday, yes, a little out of order, is extra special. It’s Save-A-Life Day and STOP THE BLEED Day. Thursday encourages the public to learn – or brush up – on their CPR skills. Miller-Todd says that when bystanders can perform CPR during emergencies, there’s a 10% higher survival rate in cardiac arrest cases alone.

Such citizen involvement and bystander engagement is easy thanks to Medic One’s free CPR classes. Simply choose the date, time and location most convenient for you and sign up for their comprehensive 90-minute class today. Medic One can also provide private classes for groups of six or more, simply email the team or call 360.704.2790 with questions. They’re also hosting a blood drive with Thurston County Emergency Management on May 23 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Find details on the Medic One Facebook page.

STOP THE BLEED Day trains bystanders to address uncontrolled bleeding. Project organizers explain that the average time for first responders to arrive is between 7 and 10 minutes but it takes only 3 to 5 minutes for an injured person to bleed out. Hemorrhage is the most common cause of preventable trauma death.

EMS week is a national opportunity to say thanks to all the emergency medical services (EMS) staff and the work they do. (1987 crew pictured). Photo courtesy: Thurston County Medic One

Honoring Thurston County’s Emergency Services Professionals during EMS Week 2024

During EMS week, Miller-Todd and the Medic One team bring ice cream treats to all their stations on May 20. Goodies are dropped off personally and teams thanked for their hard work. In previous years, local hospitals have also hosted delicious barbecue for their crews and oftentimes community members drop by firehouses to show their gratitude.

Later this summer will be the Medic One 50th anniversary Gala. This honors the original levy passed on August 4, 1974, which jumpstarted their tremendous role in the community. Current staff and even original EMTs will enjoy a celebration in their honor.

If you’d like to read more about National EMS Week, visit their website and information clearinghouse. Details on Thurston County Medic One are available on their website and Facebook page. This includes updates and activities which overlap with EMS Week activities. To join their team as a paramedic/firefighter, read recruitment and testing details; email questions to daphne.reaves@co.thurston.wa.us or call 360.704.2782.

We can’t predict accidents but with a little knowledge and help, we can survive them. This May, and every day, take the time to thank EMS workers in your community for all they do. Their skill saves lives and that’s worthy of a handshake, wave or batch of homemade cookies…or two.

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