Seattle Fire Department's Medic One becomes operational on March 7, 1970.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 1/01/2000
  • Essay 2330
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On March 7, 1970, Medic One becomes operational at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. This unit of the city's fire department provides out-of-hospital emergency cardiac care to heart-attack patients. Medic One involves both a system of reacting to heart attack emergencies and a custom-built van staffed by two specially trained firefighters and a physician. It is one of the first paramedic programs in the nation where physician-level assistance to cardiac patients is delivered to the scene of the heart attack.

Founding Medic One

In 1968, Seattle Fire Chief Gordon F. Vickery (1920-1996) began discussions with Dr. Leonard Cobb (d. 2023), Chief of Cardiology at Harborview, and with Dr. Michael Copass on providing care to heart-attack victims at the scene. With funding from the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 19 Seattle fire fighters received 150 hours of training and the Medic One van was constructed. Victims were first attended by one of the local Fire Department Aid Cars, which administered cardio-pulmonary resuscitation until the Medic One unit could respond from Harborview. After 10 months of operation, the physician stopped riding with the units and stayed in contact with the mobile teams by radio.

In 1972, the Seattle City Council declined to pick up funding for the program. Seattle firefighters solicited donations from private sources and Medic One stayed in service. Additional vans were added in 1971, 1972, and 1975. In 1974, 60 Minutes, referring to Medic One, called Seattle "The Best Place to Have a Heart Attack." In 1977, the program was expanded to cover all of King County. By 2000, King County Medic One consisted of over 50 paramedics plus support staff.


Seattle Fire Department Centennial Commemorative: 1889-1989, (Portland: Taylor Publishing Co., 1989), 62; "King County Medic One Home Page," ( history.htm). Note: This entry was updated on March 7, 2005 and June 5, 2023.

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