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Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

When faced with a life-threatening situation, people want medical help as soon as possible. In the City of San Diego, that help usually arrives first in a fire engine.

911 calls are screened by dispatchers who are trained in Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) protocols. EMD is a national standard that is reviewed on a monthly basis.

Most fire departments send a fire engine (first responder) to all 911 medical calls. San Diego Fire-Rescue triages 911 calls and sends a first responder to approximately 65 percent of 911 calls; those in which there is a potentially life threatening condition where every minute counts. San Diego County EMS Policy requires two paramedics respond to all 911 life threatening calls. Ambulances are staffed with one emergency medical technician (EMT) and one paramedic and first responders have a minimum of one firefighter/paramedic on board.

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With 47 fire stations strategically placed throughout neighborhoods, and an average of 28 ambulances throughout the city, a first responder can arrive on the scene of an emergency more quickly than an ambulance. The paramedic/firefighter is soon reinforced by a paramedic ambulance.

First responders also provide full paramedic care and augment ambulance staffing during transport of critical patients. The Captain on each first responder is a City Supervisor and addresses any on-scene logistical, legal or citizen issues and ensures compliance with San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and Rural/Metro San Diego policies and procedures.

As the City's EMS contractor, Rural/Metro San Diego provides San Diegans with numerous services, including:

  • 911 Services in the Cities of San Diego, Del Mar, Encinitas, Solana Beach, 4S Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe
  • Non-Emergency Service transportation services including:
    • Inter-facility non-emergency transportation (e.g. hospital to nursing home)
    • Residence to medical facility transportation
    • Wheelchair van and shuttle services
    • Special Event Medical Services

For billing questions, contact Rural/Metro San Diego.

Emergency Medical Service Program

The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Program provides oversight and administration of the City's contracts for EMS and medical transportation services as well as the City EMS Medical Director. The Program is mandated through a City-County contract and is responsible for ensuring high quality emergency medical services to the residents of San Diego through clinical oversight, quality assurance and improvement, monitoring of First Responder Medic Units and the transport provider's response times, and the financial and operational oversight of the entire EMS system.