California lawmaker calls for stricter firefighter EMT requirements

California senator calls for law requiring firefighters to have EMT certification after @latimes investigation

State Sen. Isadore Hall III (D-Compton) called for a new state law Friday requiring all firefighters and other emergency rescuers in California to be certified as emergency medical technicians. 

His proposal follows a Los Angeles Times investigation that found nearly 1 in 4 firefighters in the Compton Fire Department lacks a valid EMT card, a key credential required by other local fire agencies.

"I was outraged" at the news, Hall said during a radio appearance. "I will be taking action."

Over the last four decades, fire departments across the country have shifted from fighting fires to mostly responding to 911 calls for emergency medical help.

The Times surveyed 15 of the busiest fire agencies in Los Angeles County and found that Compton is the only one without an official rule requiring every firefighter be a certified EMT.

But because no state law requires that firefighters carry an EMT card, local officials said departments largely monitor their own by conducting in-house trainings.

Hall said he has asked his staff to prepare legislation that would require every emergency rescuer to maintain EMT certification. He said he plans to file a bill in the next few weeks.

To become an EMT in California, students must learn how to handle patients with severe trauma, properly dress wounds and deliver shocks to cardiac arrest victims. Refresher courses are required every two years.

"It seems like something that is just so simple," Hall said during an appearance on the Hutchinston Report, a local radio talk show hosted by Earl Ofari Hutchinson. "It's foundational."

Cathy Chidester, director of the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Agency, which oversees 911 service in the area, said she would be quick to support the change. Lawmakers should, however, consider an exception for small and volunteer fire departments, she said.

"Absolutely, there are certain exemptions that have to be had," Hall told The Times.

Hall, who won his state Senate seat in a special election late last year, has announced he will run for Congress next year.

Twitter: @LATdatadesk

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