EMS HISTORY



Beginnings - 1736
The Philadelphia Fire Department has been serving the citizens of Philadelphia for more than 265 years - an existence predating the Declaration of Independence itself.  The danger of fire raging throughout the city was ever present in colonial times so, in 1736, a young Benjamin Franklin set about trying to remedy the situation.  He established Philadelphia's Union Fire Company; the first organized volunteer firefighting service in America.  His famous saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," was actually fire-fighting advice.

 

Civil War
It is believed that the earliest use of ambulances occurred during the Civil War, when they were used to transport wounded soldiers to local hospitals from returning trains.

 

Early 20th Century
Prior to the early 1950’s, hospital transport was primarily handled by police, community, and hospital-based ambulances. Rescue Squads had existed in the Fire Department since the mid-1920’s, but they were fire-fighting vehicles, and not suitable for patient transport.  Early rescue units were staffed by 2 firemen with minimal first aid training.  Equipment consisted of splints and bandages, a stretcher, and oxygen.  The rule of the day was “Scoop and Swoop”.

 

Paramedics and EMTs
Rescue 7 became the Fire Department’s first Advanced Life Support unit on July 25, 1974.  These units were staffed with Firefighters cross-trained as Paramedics, and initially ran with a physician on board. Also starting in 1974, all new Firefighters were required to be trained to the level of Emergency Medical Technician.  In 1988, the First Responder program was initiated; this was one of the first of its kind.  Later in 1990, the Rescues were officially renamed “Medic Units”. 

The legacy of our early beginnings has made us heir to a lasting public image - one that is protected and refined by the dedicated men and women of the Philadelphia Fire Department.



Click on the picture below to view gallery images of EMS Vehicles (1965 thru 2008)

EMS Equipment