Marin County Fire Department first provided Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to the citizens of Marin in 1965, when a Cadillac ambulance was stationed in Point Reyes. The community of Point Reyes, led by Waldo Giacomini, provided the funding for the first ambulance and its equipment. The American Red Cross trained personnel assigned to the ambulance in advanced first aid.
In 1977, nine firefighters from the department were sent to Stanford University for paramedic training. In April of 1978, Rescue 90 was placed in service in Point Reyes, becoming the first paramedic rescue ambulance in Marin County. This "emergency room on wheels" brought advanced life support services to West Marin. Paramedics received over 1200 hours of training including: anatomy, physiology, cardiac emergencies, advanced airway procedures and over fifty medications that they could administer. To support the Paramedic Program, in 1982 all Marin County Fire Department firefighters became Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT).
In 1985, in response to a request by the Ross Valley Paramedic Authority, Marin County Fire Department assumed administration and staffing of Rescue 40, a paramedic stationed at the Ross Fire Station. This Joint Powers Authority provides paramedic services to residents and visitors of the communities of Corte Madera, Larkspur, Kentfield, Ross, San Anselmo, Sleepy Hollow, Fairfax, and County Service Area 27. Now known as Medic 18, it responds to approximately 1500 calls per year. The addition of Medic 18 benefits the department by providing a unit with a higher call volume, allowing paramedics an opportunity to maintain their vital skills.
Constantly looking to provide cutting edge EMS, in 1995 the Marin County Fire Department trained all firefighters to use Automatic External Defibrillators (AED). Each Marin County fire engine is now equipped with this life saving cardiac tool, which allows first responders to convert patients in full cardiac arrest into a life saving cardiac rhythm.
The Marin County Fire Department EMS Division administers an EMT education program. This program allows firefighters to maintain their certification in-house, at a lower cost than sending personnel to outside training. The department offers EMT training to the Stinson Beach, Bolinas, Inverness, and Tomales Volunteer Fire Departments. Personnel from the Marin Municipal Water District, Pt. Reyes National Seashore, National Park Service, Skywalker Ranch, and Muir Woods National Monument, also attend this monthly training.
To increase the EMS level of service in the Tomales area, Marin County Fire Department implemented an Advanced Life Support (ALS) paramedic engine in the fall of 1997. This brings a firefighter-paramedic and lifesaving equipment to visitors and citizens of Tomales. ALS transport ambulances in Tomales are provided under contract from Bodega Bay and Petaluma Fire Departments.
Marin County Fire Department recently implemented a Continuous Quality Improvement, CQI, program, which provides peer review of the ALS system. New protocols, in conjunction with the CQI program, allow paramedics to provide more advanced care for patients, without base hospital direction. This program provides continuous monitoring, improvement, and systems analysis of the paramedic service.
In 2000, the department began operating a paramedic unit at Stinson Beach. This unit is staffed during the peak tourist season, Memorial Day through Labor Day. Marin County Fire Department operates four paramedic ambulances, with a reserve unit stationed in Woodacre (that can be staffed when needed), and two ALS engines. The twenty-two paramedics have an average of ten years of experience, many coming from high-call- volume urban areas. The paramedics and EMTs receive extensive training in hazardous materials, rope rescue, swift water rescue, confined space rescue, auto extrication and multi-casualty incidents.