On March 1, 2001, Kensington's Engine 65 was upgraded from Basic Life Support status to Advanced Life Support (ALS) status, commonly called Paramedic service. Engine 65 is the first engine-based paramedic unit in West Contra Costa County. Each firefighting shift has at least one crew member licensed to the paramedic level, with the other members certified to the Emergency Medical Technician level. All of the personnel and the equipment must meet stringent standards and follow treatment guidelines as set forth by such agencies as Contra Costa County Emergency Medical Services (EMS), the Department of Transportation, and Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA).
The application of the engine-based Paramedic program provides advanced medical treatment (medications) in the field that is usually provided by an ambulance company or the Emergency Room. Through the new Paramedic program, this is accomplished in an average time of 4-1/2 minutes as opposed to the over 11 minute average that it takes the ambulance provider that is contracted by Contra Costa County EMS. This time difference has made a life-saving difference in the outcome of many of the medical calls received in Kensington and southeast El Cerrito in the short time the program has been in place.
The reception from the citizens, as well as the private ambulance provider, has been excellent. The high number of responses that have resulted in ALS care has surprised many but only points to the need for the Paramedic unit to exist in the Kensington community.
As Contra Costa County EMS policies and procedures continue to change, the Paramedic program changes with them. This includes expanded training as well as equipment upgrades. The Engine 65 personnel who provide this necessary service strive to give the citizens the most advanced and professional care possible.