The bureau of Emergency Medical Services is dedicated to the reduction of morbidity and mortality of residents and visitors through the provision of Advanced Life Support prehospital care, medically directed Technical Rescue and transportation of the ill and injured.
Today's Pittsburgh EMS is the result of ongoing years of service, dedication and even a few hardships along the way. In the late 1960s, the earliest phases of what Pittsburgh EMS is today, a group of Pittsburgh residents were trained and certified as Paramedics in Pennsylvania's first Paramedic Program right here in Allegheny County. This group of newly trained Paramedics became the first recognized service to provide Advanced Life Support (ALS) to Pittsburgh, and was known as Freedom House Ambulance Service.
Prior to the establishment of Pittsburgh EMS, transport of the ill and injured was primarily a responsibility of the Pittsburgh Police. Using "paddy wagons", predominantly used for prisoner transport, the police officers, lacking sufficient medical training, would transport the patient. In a response to the medical community, the City of Pittsburgh trained approximately 300 police officers to the level of Emergency Medical Technician so they would then be able to provide basic medical care to the residents of the City. Still poorly equipped and trained, the service provided was unable to meet the needs of the City. City Council joined the push for a more developed EMS service, and between 1974 and 1975 nearly three quarters of a million dollars were set aside to fund a new Emergency Medical Services Program.
Using the funds appropriated by City Council, as well as obtaining funding through the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), The Emergency Medical Services Program was founded. The Emergency Medical Services Program was officially established as part of the Mayor's Office in 1975.
In August of 1975, four ALS Ambulances were stationed around the City. In the first four months after inception, the new service responded to over 3,200 calls for assistance. By the end of 1976, the EMS Program had grown to 66 Paramedics, staffing five ALS Ambulances and responding to over 20,000 calls for aid.
By 1978, the Department of Emergency Medical Services was created, and the department had almost doubled in size due to the increasing demand for service. By 1980, the department grew to around 200 Paramedics and staffed 14 EMS Units. By the end of that year, the police officers were phased out and Pittsburgh EMS had established for itself a strong foundation within the heart of the City of Pittsburgh.
Today, Pittsburgh EMS employs over 150 Paramedics who staff 13 ALS Ambulances, 2 Rescue Trucks, River Rescue and other EMS Units. Last year alone EMS responded to over 56,000 calls for rescue and emergency medical care.