City of Tacoma announcement.
Tacoma, Wash. – The Tacoma Fire Department responded to almost 50,000 calls in 2022. Most of those calls – about 80 percent in fact – were for Emergency Medical Service (EMS).
Tacoma residents and businesses pay taxes to the city for all services, including fire suppression and life safety programs. EMS is funded separately through a voter-approved levy capped at $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The fire department’s EMS program provides the highest level of emergency medical care called Advanced Life Support (ALS) and is staffed with highly skilled firefighter/paramedics and firefighter/emergency medical technicians 24 hours a day.
ALS means that emergency personnel can:
- Start intravenous lines and administer lifesaving medication
- Provide advanced airway management to help you breathe
- Detect early signs of heart attack and interpret EKG readings
- Perform other lifesaving, pre-hospital care for trauma, stroke, heart attack and critical infections
“EMS is the fire department’s most widely used service,” Fire Chief Tory Green said. “It’s important that we report back to you about how we are funded and how we use your tax dollars to provide high quality emergency medical care.”
How we are funded
Voters last approved an EMS levy capped at $0.50 per $1,000 in 2006. Since then, the levy rate has dropped to $0.32 per $1,000. Over time, levy rates fall as property values rise to limit the fire department to a one percent increase per year or any voter-approved increase. The amount of money the fire department receives in EMS levy funding does not increase by the same percentage as property values increase.
EMS call volumes continue to increase
Calls for EMS increase an average 3.1 percent per year – 14 percent in one year alone. To keep up with higher call volumes and costs to provide services, the fire department is considering asking voters to restore the EMS levy to $0.50 per $1,000 sometime this year.
“We are proud to serve our community, and we couldn’t do this critical work without their support,” Fire Chief Green said.