History of Milwaukee County EMS

EMS History

The Milwaukee County Paramedic Program began with the Medical College of Wisconsin receiving a grant from the federal government to further develop its EMS system. This grant was a result of the “EMS Systems Act” of 1973. The West Allis fire department volunteered to be the first fire department to send EMT/Basic firefighters to the Milwaukee County Paramedic Training Center (PTC) to go through a newly established paramedic course.

In 1975, the original grant ended and the Milwaukee County Board funded what was then called the "paramedic program". In 1996 the "paramedic program" name was changed to the "Milwaukee County Emergency Medical System" (MC EMS), to better reflect the full scope of the out-of-hospital emergency medical services provided to the citizens of Milwaukee County.

Milwaukee County Emergency Medical Services (MC EMS) is a division within the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services. The EMS System is a comprehensive, coordinated entity of nineteen municipalities servicing 241 square miles and approximately one million people through the activation of the 911 Emergency Response System.

EMS is an integral part of our health care community administering critical emergency medicine in pre-hospital settings. Milwaukee County EMS is responsible for administering the operation and maintenance of County-wide emergency medical services through contractual agreements with nine of Milwaukee County’s nineteen municipalities to provide Advanced Life Support (ALS), paramedic level, emergency medical services and three municipalities to provide basic life support (BLS) emergency medical services. Milwaukee County EMS provides administration, medical control, education, health information management, medical supplies, quality assurance, medical communications and dispatch guidelines for the municipal fire department ALS and BLS agencies.


Health Information Management (medical records)

Health Information Management is the centralized repository for all municipal EMS System providers’ patient care records. Customized, comprehensive relational database meeting NEMSIS standards with extensive data mining capabilities to support system planning, research, system monitoring, benchmarking, education, improvements in patient care

In 1987 the paramedic program transferred the patient care database from the County General Hospital mainframe database to a database unique to the paramedic program. This database was further enhanced in 1999 to an Oracle platform web based database in preparations for Y2K and to date holds over 700,000 records which are frequently used in research projects, evaluations of system operations and to strategically plan enhancements to the medical care provided to patients. Well over 300 research articles have been written as a result of data obtained through the MC EMS system and research projects that involved the MC EMS system.


Quality Assurance

In 1996 in response of the expansion of the MC EMS system, the section of Quality Assurance (QA) was created. The quality assurance section is a centralized system establishing a consistent Community Standard of Care, committed partnership with system EMS providers and hospitals, real time access to patient care data allowing for continuous monitoring, extensive data available to develop standards, monitor system compliance, identify problems and successes, drive improvements.

The Quality Assurance (QA) section of the division of MC EMS, monitors all aspects of the Milwaukee County EMS system. Development, deploying and management of policies and Standards of Care, Standards of Practical Skills are the responsibility of the QA section. Monitoring compliance issues, developing mechanisms of daily monitoring the EMS system through tools called dashboards. The QA section collects investigates incidents involving EMS providers and the EMS system. The QA section works with medical control and the education section to remediate EMS providers involved in the incident. The staff from the QA section sits on stroke, trauma and cardiac committees from multiple hospital health care systems.



The Milwaukee County Paramedic Program began with the PTC educating nine EMT-Basic students from the City of West Allis in February of 1973. In subsequent years a total of eight municipalities have contracted with Milwaukee County to provide advance level life support to the citizens of their community as well as eight non-ALS communities. By local county ordinance, the PTC is required to educate EMS providers from municipalities within the county first, local private EMS providers, second, municipal EMS providers from outside the county third and private providers from outside the county last. The majority of the paramedics educated to date have been municipal fire department EMS providers from within the county, with a few classes being made up of employees from fire departments outside Milwaukee County.

In the late 1990’s the PTC changed its name to Milwaukee County EMS Education Center (MC EMS Educ. Ctr.). It was felt that the education institution provided more EMS related course than just paramedic training.   The primary focus of EMS education offered by MC EMS Education Center is at the advanced life support level through paramedic classes and paramedic continuing education classes. MC EMS Education Center has also offered EMT/B Intermediate technician classes, EMT/B mini refresher classes, first responder classes and American heart Association; CPR, AED and First Aid classes.


Medical Control

Medical control is through a contract agreement with the Medical College of Wisconsin. Physicians from the Department of Emergency Medicine provide medical consultation to the MC EMS Education Center as well as the MC EMS system. The medical consultation involves advice on curriculums for EMS courses and continuing education conferences, on-line (live) to EMS crews care for patients in the field and off-line policy and system development. 

The Medical College of Wisconsin- Department of Emergency Medicine has been the contracted medical control for the MC EMS Education Center and the MC EMS system since the inception of the school and the EMS system in 1973.


Communication Center

The original medical communication location for the paramedics to have real time communication with an emergency medicine physician was literally a closet that needed to be unlocked by a sheriff deputy stationed in the emergency department so a physician could speak to a paramedic crew. The "base" as it was termed them was nothing more than the small room with a radio on a counter similar to the radio communications station on the 1970's show Emergency. Today the EMS Communications Center is staffed 24/7/365 with trained communicators. The Communication Center serves as the regional center for medical direction, multiple casualty incident transport coordination, ED Diversion status, forwards patient status reports and transport information to receiving hospitals; activates Trauma, STEMI and Stroke Alerts for some receiving hospitals.

To date the EMS Communications Center manages medical communications form more than thirty (30) municipality fire department paramedic units, all EMS vehicles and all medical helicopters transporting patients to both Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and Froedtert Hospital's emergency departments. In addition, the EMS Communication Center manages WiTrac, a Internet bases communication platform managing hospital closures. The EMS Communication Center works closely with on-scene EMS/fire department command staff to manage the transportation to area hospitals during mass casualty events. The EMS Communication Center currently manages over 4,200 communications with fire department EMS units and over 2,000 communications with EMS units of all types who are transporting to hospitals on the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center campus, Froedtert Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.



Emergency Medical Services Division

9501 W. Watertown Plank Rd.

Telephone:  (414) 257-6661 

 Fax: (414) 257-7919

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