On any given day in Alameda County, more than 300 people call 9-1-1 to request help for a medical emergency: heart attack, breathing problem, stroke, poisoning, animal bite, assault, burn, seizure, drowning, shooting and more.

Whatever the problem, that call initiates a response from our Emergency Medical Services system whose goal is to provide the citizens and visitors of Alameda County with the most responsive, clinically excellent and compassionate emergency medical care possible.

The response of the system starts with the dispatchers at our two emergency medical dispatch EMD centers. Those dispatchers record vital information on the call and sometimes "pre-arrival" instructions so care can be initiated before responders arrive.

Both our EMD centers use the Medical Priority Dispatch System. This system is designed to get the right resource to the right patient at the right time based on the caller's chief complaint, incident type, patient status and scene conditions.

The MPDS system is an international standard. Both of our EMD centers are considered "Centers of Excellence" -- a title given only to 10 percent of dispatch centers worldwide.

Processing of the 9-1-1 call is handled quickly and resources dispatched promptly to the location of the emergency.

In our system, all fire departments provide advanced life support first response. That means that a fire engine with a paramedic on board will often arrive before the ambulance. All of our fire departments consistently excel with their rapid response times.


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Four of our fire departments provide ambulance service themselves while the rest of the county is "covered" by a private contractor That contractor also consistently excels with their rapid response times.

Alameda County has some of the most stringent response time standards in the country -- and we do better than what's required. Regrettably, even the best response times won't always guarantee that the patient survives.

Once on scene, EMTs and paramedics assess and care for the patient who, once stabilized on scene, is then transported to the hospital.

Specific patients may be transported to a hospital that specializes in providing care for certain emergencies such as heart attacks, strokes or severe trauma.

To put this in perspective, here are some numbers: In 2012, more than 40,000 patients were screened for life-threatening heart attacks. Since the trauma system was implemented in 1987, more than 95,000 critically injured patients have been treated at one of our three trauma centers.

The citizens and visitors of Alameda County can know this: Anyone who needs emergency medical care here will receive professional, efficient, quality response and care from Alameda County EMS.

Fred Claridge is EMS director of Alameda County Emergency Medical Services Agency, based in San Leandro.