Pine-Strawberry Fire Chief Gary Morris was recognized for his 40-year contributions in promoting improvements in fire-based emergency medical service (EMS) and paramedic programs across the country with the “James O. Page EMS Achievement Award” June 5 at the annual FireMed Conference in Henderson, Nev.
James O. Page was a battalion chief with the Los Angeles Fire Department and the technical adviser for the popular 1970s era television series “Emergency” that featured “Rescue 51” paramedics responding to all kinds of medical emergencies. The series pushed the rapid development of paramedic emergency medical services by fire departments across the country. Page became the most recognized authority and expert on emergency medical services in the country. He died in 2004.
The award reads, “The award is presented annually to an outstanding individual who played a key role and/or promoting nonclinical innovation in fire service emergency medical service management and leadership with a positive national impact.”
Morris actually knew Page. In 1974, he drove to Los Angeles County to meet the legend and dropped in unannounced at Page’s battalion headquarters and they talked for two hours. They became friends and often taught together at EMS conferences.
When Page started an EMS magazine Morris participated in the startup planning, became a contributing editor and reviewer, and wrote a number of articles for the now-titled “Journal of Emergency Medical Services” magazine.
Morris was one of the first two Phoenix firefighters to be certified as an emergency medical technician in 1973 — and they did so on their own. Fire department management at the time frowned on the thought of emergency medical services. He was one of the first 12 firefighters to be certified as a paramedic by the state of Arizona in 1975. Department members tagged them the “Dirty Dozen.”
While with Phoenix Fire Department, Morris oversaw a number of innovative emergency medical services programs that included the first ever 911 dispatcher medical self-help instruction. Dispatchers were trained to instruct callers in how to perform CPR, or other lifesaving methods, while paramedic crews were responding to the emergency. The 1974 program became a national requirement for dispatcher training and certification.
Morris also developed a major medical incident command system for mass casualty events. The system was published in a four-part series in a national fire service magazine in 1978. The command system quickly became a national model for fire departments across the country.
In the 1980s, Morris was one of 14 selected EMS leaders from fire departments around the country that developed a national strategic plan for improving fire department emergency medical service programs. The plan also designed a variety of training programs for the National Fire Academy.
As a division chief in charge of EMS operations in Phoenix, he helped implement the first-ever paramedic engine company concept that moved paramedics off the two-person rescue vehicle to a four-person engine company. The concept was expanded to every engine company in the department that ensures a four-minute response time and became a national model.
More recently, Morris was a member of an international standard setting organization that created the first-ever national standard for a safer designed and constructed ambulance vehicle.
Morris says he was humbled by the award and recognized that there are 33,000 fire chiefs in the country and only a very small group of chiefs have been honored with this award.