Labor & Politics

Multi-Faceted Approach Helps Bring Fire-Based EMS Service to Sonoma County, CA

NEP Nation Staff

August 22, 2023

Sonoma County’s EMS system was broken.

Too often, the private ambulance company contracted to respond to medical emergencies throughout the county would put their bottom line above service, closing ambulances and leaving residents without the care they deserve when they need it the most. As wait times for ambulances grew, the Professional Fire Fighters of Sonoma County IAFF Local 1401 saw an opportunity to fundamentally transform EMS service in the area by putting it in the hands of the fire fighters who already respond to medical emergencies throughout the county.

Earlier this year, NEP worked hand-in-hand with the association, California Professional Firefighters, and the IAFF in a campaign that culminated in bringing fire department-based EMS to Sonoma County.

“The future of emergency medical service lies with our fire fighters, and I’m thrilled that we could play a part in bringing fire department-based EMS to Sonoma County,” said Mike Stornetta, president of Professional Fire Fighters of Sonoma County. “Our elected officials righted a wrong and put EMS in the hands of the experts in public safety – our local fire fighters.”

In order to educate the county’s residents and garner public support ahead of a decision by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, the association and NEP launched a digital marketing campaign, which featured a standalone website that told the story of the county’s broken EMS system.

NEP supported this effort through social media and targeted Google advertisements, as well as a petition aimed at the Board of Supervisors, which garnered 500 signatures in support of fire department-based EMS. The drive accumulated a total of 4 million impressions between the petition and NEP’s digital advocacy campaign, educating a large swath of Sonoma County’s residents about the troubled state of their EMS system.

“Campaigns aren’t won simply by word-of-mouth and door-knocking in 2023,” said Mark Treglio, President of NEP. “The digital marketing campaign in Sonoma County not only educated Sonoma County residents of the trouble their EMS system was in, they empowered them to stand up and join with their local fire fighters to push for real change.”

The drive for fire department-based EMS culminated in the Sonoma County Department of Health Services recommending to award the ambulance contract to Sonoma County Fire District in April. The move was approved by the County Board of Supervisors in June.

“Sonoma County’s elected officials put EMS responsibility where it belongs – with the fire department,” Stornetta said. “Through our strategic education campaign, we were able to successfully bring our community together to drive positive change in our county’s emergency response. Without the support of our community, we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in today.”

The families and businesses of Sonoma County invest in their safety and deserve excellence in public safety, which is what they receive through fire department-based EMS. While their campaign ultimately ended in success, the Professional Fire Fighters of Sonoma County were also able to use this drive to educate and empower the public to take control and make positive changes to public safety in their community.