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Public Health - Seattle & King County

King County has world's highest survival rate for cardiac arrest

Monday, May 19, 2014

Someone who has a cardiac arrest in King County has a greater chance of survival than anyone else in the world, according the latest analysis by county officials. The survival rate for cardiac arrest in King County hit an all-time high of 62 percent in 2013. By comparison, the cardiac survival rates in New York City, Chicago, and other urban areas have been recorded in the single digits.

“People are alive today in King County who would not have survived in most other places in the country,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Our system delivers rapid, high-quality critical care wherever you are.”

King County’s success in saving lives is based in a coordinated, regional system where everyone – dispatchers, first responders, fire departments, law enforcement, paramedics, urgent care centers, and others – is guided by consistent medical direction and evidence-based practice.

The cardiac survival rate in King County has dramatically risen over the past decade or so, from an above-average 27 percent in 2002 to 62 percent in 2013. Strategies that have contributed to the rise include:

  • Adoption of high-performance CPR method by emergency medical technicians to maximize oxygen circulation and increase survival chances.
  • Adoption of telecommunicator CPR, whereby 911 emergency personnel provide instant CPR instructions by phone.
  • Increasing public availability of automated external defibrillators (AEDs), including more than 100 in King County facilities, and placement of AEDs in many law enforcement vehicles, including with King County Sheriff’s deputies.
  • High rates of CPR training for local residents.
  • A regional paramedic training program, funded by charitable contributions, that exceeds national standards for certification.

“This is a public health victory in preventing deaths that don’t need to happen in our community, and a great example of how a community-based strategy can get it done,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County.

“We like to say that it takes a system to save a cardiac arrest victim, and it’s proven true again and again with every new survivor,” said Dr. Mickey Eisenberg, King County Emergency Medical Services Medical Director. “I thank everyone for their contributions to the success of our EMS/Medic One system.”

Introduced in Seattle in 1970, the Medic One program was one of the first in the nation to provide paramedic services; the program spread to all of King County starting in 1973. Our EMS/Medic One program has become a model nationwide for delivery of lifesaving first-responder services. 

In recognition of EMS/Medic One system’s excellence, King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Council today proclaimed the week of May 19-25 as Emergency Medical Services Week in King County. 

 “I am so proud of our King County EMS. Their commitment to outstanding service and adaptation of technology is what led to this new higher survival rate,” said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, Chair of the Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “It’s another great reason why we have a high quality of life in King County.”

What partners are saying about King County’s EMS/Medic One system record-breaking achievement:

“Our region's Medic One system is the gold standard for pre-hospital care and these steadily improving survival rate statistics are a testament to our paramedics and to the community’s commitment to the Medic One Foundation,” said Jan Sprake, Executive Director for the Medic One Foundation.   

“King County’s achievement is an incredible victory. The American Heart Association has always been an advocate for community CPR training, AED placement in the community, and research-based techniques for effective CPR. We are thrilled to see that all of us working together is resulting in even more lives saved in our region,” said Cheryl Dale, Executive Director, American Heart Association Puget Sound Division.

More about King County’s world-class EMS/Medic One system at www.kingcounty.gov/health/ems.

King County cardiac arrest survival rates for 2013 were at a new high, 62%

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in King County operates in a coordinated partnership with five dispatch centers, six paramedic providers, and 30 fire departments. Funded through a countywide Medic One/EMS Levy, the EMS system utilizes a layered-response system providing a continuum of care for people in need of emergency medical services.