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"EMERGENCY!" Concept

The background of "Emergency!" as a television series is the true story of a project that began in Los Angeles in 1969. That was the year that launched a specially trained team of highly skilled firemen-paramedics to operate rescue squads for the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Although many fire departments traditionally have provided rescue service to aid the injured, sick and dying, it was obvious to many civic officials and medical personnel that too many patients were being lost before they could received trained medical aid at the hospital.

The initial program to alleviate this waste of life was inaugurated, funded by the federal and county governments. Los Angeles County's Harbor General Hospital was selected to provide the training and D. J. Michael Criley, Chief of Cardiology, undertook the task of turning firemen into trained medical assistants. County Fire Chief Richard H. Houts assigned six firemen, all of whom had rescue squad experience, to the hospital. In pairs, the firefighters went with doctors on their daily hospital rounds, checking vital signs, taking blood pressure readings, interpreting electrocardiograms. The performed as "student medical assistants". 

Afternoons were spent in the classrooms, where the firemen and a score of registered nurses qualified to become Cardiac Care Unit Specialist.

Three short months later, the firemen were in the fields, able to put their newly acquired knowledge to use with the aid of sophisticated, and expensive, mobile equipment which was added to the conventional rescue squad trucks.

For the first year, a nurse accompanied the paramedics on all calls because there was no legal authority for the firemen to perform the advanced techniques they had learned. Then, the Wedworth-Townsend Act was passed by the California State Legislature and the paramedic program was off the ground.

"The program is still in it's infancy," says "Emergency!" producer Robert A. Cinader. "There are only 47 paramedics in all of Los Angeles County. These remarkable men double the chances of saving lives. A great percentage of cardiac cases are lost within the first hour -- on the way to the hospital. These units and their equipment reduce that percentage by half.

Other cities are following the case of the paramedics with great interest. Miami and Seattle already have a program underway. 

The Los Angeles Country Paramedics actually operate a Mobile Intensive Care Unit. Their basic tools are radio telemetry stethoscope, electrocardiograph monitor, oscilloscope, ventilatory assistance equipment, plus the traditional rescue tools -- resuscitator and equipment to force access to a patient trapped in an accident. 

But, a large percentage of the paramedic's rescues are of heart attack victims. 

Receiving the distress call over the usual police or fire department channels, the paramedics respond with sirens blaring. At the scene, they attach small metal leads onto the patient and radio his heart information to the doctor in the hospital's heart unit. Other pertinent data -- blood pressure, pulse -- is radioed back to help the doctor evaluate the condition. In turn, the doctor radios his directions: "give medication," "administer life-saving electrical shock"...

The paramedics comprise half the team of life savers; the doctors and nurses on the alert at the cooperating hospital complete it. Their extensive knowledge is the power which gives the paramedic unit, with its equipment, the ability to save lives in an emergency.

The professional doctors in Universal Television's "Emergency! are headed by Kelly Brackett, M.D., portrayed by Robert Fuller.

Dedicated almost to the extent of obsession, he could be one of the most highly paid physicians in private practice. Instead, he devotes his superior skill to the saving of lives in the emergency rooms of the hospital. Unmarried, his career has never given him time for romance or rather, he has never taken the time. Originally "Kel" Brackett was opposed to the paramedic program -- he believed in its need, but felt it was a dangerous compromise.

"We're short of doctors," he once said, "especially for emergency work. Then let's have a crash program to train more doctors, not first aid men."

He has changed his mind.

And one of those most instrumental for the change of opinion is a very pretty nurse, Dixie McCall.

Julie London is Dixie. As one of the nurses who accompanied the rescue units during the 1st days of its existence, she has been a staunch booster of the program.

Nurse McCall also is single, quite obviously by her own choosing. Unlike Brackett, Dixie has not put her profession before her private life. Perhaps she has never found the right man. Or has her respect and admiration for Dr. Brackett made every other man suffer by comparison? Certainly her relationship with him on a professional level doesn't reveal the awe in which she regards  him -- they often stand toe-to-toe when they disagree -- but their mutual respect for each other is a factor that puts their association on a higher level that doctor and nurse.

Sharing the dedication of Kel and Dixie is Joe Early, M.D., played by Bobby Troup. A noted neurosurgeon, wealthy in his own right, Dr. Early chooses to donate his time the emergency unit as a concerned citizen -- often to the detriment of his lucrative Beverly Hills practice. Early is not a dilettante, although his interest in the arts, combined with his social position, is thoroughly exploited in the society sections of the news media. He is totally absorbed in his work. Joe watches Kel and Dixie with an interested and approving eye and often is the catalyst which makes their relationship work so effectively.

The hospital team, however, would not be effective without the paramedics in the field. "Emergency!" concentrates on one of these teams, composed of John Gage and Roy De Soto.

Randolph Mantooth is Gage, a rescue fireman who, realizing the importance of the new program, has entered the tough ranks of the paramedics. Not one of the original trainees, he is less interested in the politics involved than he is in doing the necessary job. Still single and in his early 20's, Gage is typical of young men his age.

De Soto, portrayed by Kevin Tighe, is more concerned. He has been in the program from the beginning and has been instrumental in Gage's enlistment. Married, De Soto is more settled than his friend and has been ardently crusading for the program.

On the periphery are the other doctors, nurses, firemen and police office who become involved at the time of tragedy - be it earthquake, tunnel cave-in, freeway accident or a child's kitten trapped in a tree.

"Emergency!" will cover all of these situations, sometimes as a vignette within the framework of an over-all story, sometimes as separate stories within the hour-long episodes.

But whatever the situation, the paramedics respond with sirens screaming and red lights blazing.

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