Los Angeles County Emergency Paramedics History
Timeline of EMS in Los Angeles County 1966-1994


  • National Academy of Sciences – National Research Council publishes a report titled Accidental Death and Disability: The Neglected Disease of Modern Society, which recommends the use of pilot programs to determine the efficacy of providing physician-staffed ambulances for care.
  • Highway Safety Act of 1966 establishes national standards for inspections of used emergency services vehicles.
    National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 specifies ambulance design and construction


  • Dr. Frank Pantridge from Belfast, Ireland publishes the first study defining a Mobile Coronary Care Unit.


  • Dr. Walter Graf begins a Mobile Coronary Care Unit program at Daniel Freeman Hospital in Inglewood-Centinela. The “Heart Car,” donated by McCormick Ambulance and equipped with a cardiac monitor, defibrillator and radio communication equipment begins service.
  • Board of Supervisors meet with community leaders and decide to train fire department personnel as paramedics.

September 12, 1969

  • The first paramedic class begins training at Harbor General Hospital under Dr. J. Michael Criley and Critical Care Unit nurse Carol Bebout. Six firefighters from Los Angeles County Fire Department enrolled in this pilot project.

December 8, 1969

  • The first LA County Fire rescue unit, Squad 59, officially goes into service. It is based on the grounds of Harbor General Hospital and is manned by two newly trained paramedics on each shift. Coronary Care Unit Nurses from Harbor General Hospital must ride along to supervise field care because there is no legislation permitting paramedics to practice.
  • Work begins on a state bill to allow paramedics to provide advanced medical life support without the direct supervision of a nurse or physician. It is introduced to both houses of the State by Senator James Wedworth and Assemblyman Larry Townsend.

July 14, 1970

The Wedworth-Townsend Paramedic Act is signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan. California becomes the first state to adopt legislation defining “certification” and permitting paramedics to provide advanced medical life support.

May 11, 1971

  • TV producer Robert Cinader becomes interested in developing new series regarding rescue for NBC and visits Los Angeles County Fire Station 7 and Station 36.

January 1972

  • The TV series “Emergency!” is first televised. The series raises public awareness of the paramedic program throughout the country.


  • The Emergency Medical Services Systems Act of 1973 is signed into law, establishing federal grant funding for EMS systems and expanding paramedic training.


  • Dr. Ronald Stewart, an emergency medicine physician, is placed in charge of the Paramedic Training Institute. He expands and modifies the paramedic curriculum and writes the first paramedic training manuals.

Late 1970s

  • Continuing education programs are put into place. Paramedics are now required to recertify through written and skills examinations.

Late 1979

  • The EMS Commission is established by County Ordinance
  • The Board of Supervisors adopts the Advanced Life Support (ALS) Unit Staffing Policy, which requires two licensed paramedics to staff any ALS Unit.

November 1980

  • The Emergency Medical Service and Emergency Medical Care Personnel Act is signed into law, mandating state responsibility for emergency medical services by designation of a local EMS Agency.
  • The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor authorizes the Department of Health Services to fill the role of EMS Agency and becomes responsible for the overall coordination of emergency services in LA County.

December 15, 1983

  • The first eight Level I trauma hospitals are designated and activated by the Board of Supervisors.


  • The EMS Act is amended to allow local EMS Agencies to create exclusive operating areas for private EMS providers such as ambulance companies.

1984 -1985

  • Hospitals with the capability of handling specialized needs of children are designated as Emergency Departments Approved for Pediatric Critical Care Centers

Late 1980s

  • Testing and certification of paramedics is transferred from the local counties to the state.

July 1994

  • By statute, paramedic certification is changed to licensure and testing is eliminated from the re-licensure process.