Powerful Media for Pressing Issues


America faces an overwhelming demand on its emergency medical services. Firestorm can be a vehicle for change as part of the Rescue the Rescuers Campaign, which aims to promote health literacy, spread EMS awareness, and support the establishment of a lead federal EMS agency.

Join the RESCUE THE RESCUERS Campaign:

Every minute in the United States, an ambulance is turned away from an emergency room because hospitals are simply too full. In Los Angeles, where the wait time in some ERs is as long as 48 hours, the entire 911 system is being challenged in ways that are alarming.

Firestorm follows Los Angeles Fire Department Station 65, located in South Los Angeles, a neighborhood with a largely uninsured and undereducated population. The LAFD handles all emergency medical services for the city of Los Angeles, and currently 82% of the department’s work is medical, rather than fire-related. Eleven hospitals have closed in just five years in LA, and the challenge of delivering more than 500 patients per day to a shrinking number of hospitals is overwhelming the LAFD. With resources strained, and 911 being used for everything from heart attacks to stomach aches, LAFD paramedics have become virtual ‘doctors in a box’.

Running Time: 54 Minutes
Release Date: 2010





Past Screenings

  • September 1, 2011 - Las Vegas, NV - EMS World Expo
  • July 30, 2011 - Nationwide premiere on The Documentary Channel
  • March 4, 2011 - 11am - Baltimore, MD - EMS Today Conference - Q&A with filmmaker Julie Winokur
  • January 23-25, 2011 - New York, NY - Council on Foundations - Family Philanthropy Conference
  • September 13-15, 2010 - Charlotte, NC - Council on Foundations - Fall Conference for Community Foundations
  • June 30, 2010 - Orlando, FL - Florida EMS Advisory Council Meeting
  • June 7, 2010 - 8pm - Los Angeles - Sneak Peek on KLCS-TV
  • May 16, 2010 - 8pm - Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco - 3-city simulcast and EMS meetup
  • May 16, 2010 - 6pm - San Francisco - Sneak Peek on KQED’s Truly CA
  • April 24, 2010 - Council on Foundations 2010 Film & Video Festival

A Few Facts About Health Care in America

FIRESTORM illustrates many of the problems in our emergency medical system.  While our EMS comprises a small fraction of the country’s healthcare budget, nearly 120 million people visit an ER yearly.  Meanwhile the number of hospital emergency departments continues to decrease.

  • The nation’s nearly 4,000 hospital emergency departments are a portal for as many as three out of four uninsured patients admitted to U.S. hospitals.
  • Approximately 500,000 ambulances are diverted (turned away by an overcrowded hospital) annually in the United States.  This is about one ambulance diversion per minute.
  • Fire departments nationwide went on about 15.8 million medical calls in 2008, up from about 5 million in 1980, a 213% increase.
  • 50 years ago, half of the nation’s doctors practiced primary care.  Today, almost 70% of doctors work in higher paid specialities; it’s estimated that in 10 years, the shortage of family doctors will reach 40,000.
  • Primary care doctors make one-fourth the salary of a specialist, while trying to pay down $140,000 on average in medical school debt.
  • The starting salary for a primary care physician is $134,351 compared to $350,000 for a cardiac surgeon and $300,000 for a plastic surgeon.
  • In 38 states, health insurance companies can deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition, and nearly 4 out of 10 Americans has at least one chronic medical condition.
  • Every year, the deaths of at least 22,000 people can be attributed to a lack of health insurance.  This makes uninsurance the sixth leading cause of death, ahead of HIV/AIDS and diabetes.
  • Between 2000 and 2007, the average premium for job-based family coverage increased by more than 90%, rising from $6,351 to $12,106.
  • More than 3 out of 5 adults who report having problems paying their medical bills had insurance.
  • 78% of those with private insurance and medical debt work full-time.
  • Medical bills are involved in more than 60% of U.S. bankruptcies, an increase of 50% in just six years, and more than 75% of these bankrupt families had health insurance but still were overwhelmed by their medical debts.
  • In the past 10 years, 90% of medical school graduates have entered higher-paid sub-specialities, while only 10% have chosen primary care.
  • The amount of uncompensated care provided by hospitals has increased by $14.8 billion in eight years, from $21.6 billion in 2000 to $36.4 billion in 2008.

Professional Organizations

Advocates for Emergency Medical Services (AEMS)
AEMS is a coalition of major EMS organizations that is dedicated to promoting, educating, and increasing awareness among decision-makers in Washington on issues affecting EMS providers.

American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)
ACEP is the largest national medical specialty organization representing physicians who practice emergency medicine. With nearly 27,000 members, ACEP is the leading continuing education source for emergency physicians and the primary information resource on developments in the specialty.

International Association of EMS Chiefs (IAEMSC)
The IAEMSC mission is to support, promote and advance the leadership of EMS response entities and to advocate for the EMS profession. IAEMSC membership is made up of leaders from both career and volunteer EMS organizations and proudly represents and embraces the diversity of EMS agencies throughout the world.

International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF)
IAFF is one of the most active lobbying organizations in Washington and represents more than 295,000 full-time professional fire fighters and paramedics who protect 85 percent of the nation’s populations.

National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT)
NAEMT is the nation’s only organization solely dedicated to representing the professional interests of all EMS practitioners, including paramedics, emergency medical technicians, first responders and other professionals working in pre-hospital emergency medicine.

National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP)
NAEMSP is an organization of physicians and other professionals partnering to provide leadership and foster excellence in out of hospital emergency medical services.

Funding provided by

Ben & Jerry’s Foundation
The Fledgling Fund
The Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation
The Maurice Falk Fund
The Nathan Cummings Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation



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