EMS Saves Lives. YES on EMS

We last added a paramedic unit 15 years ago and since then Whatcom County has grown by more than 40,000 people. We need to expand our emergency medical services system to maintain our fast response when people call for help.

What is Prop 1?

Prop 1 is a dedicated source of funding for emergency medical services. This is a 29.5-cent levy that will cost the owner of the average home, assessed at $250,000, $74 per year. That’s 20-cents a day for a fast response if you need to call for help.

What will Prop 1 pay for?

By state law, the EMS levy can only be used for emergency medical services:

  • Paramedics, training and lifesaving equipment.
  • A lean and unified countywide system so more of your money goes directly to saving lives.
  • A community paramedic program to connect frequent system users with services and reduce their reliance on 911.
  • One more paramedic unit to keep up with a growing community.

What will happen if Prop 1 doesn’t get the 60% it needs to pass?

“Service would be diminished…resulting in increased response times to emergency calls.”*

*Source   :     EMS Executive Oversight Board memo, 9/20/16


The levy was put on the ballot through unanimous votes of Whatcom County and the City of Bellingham, after a unanimous endorsement by the 15-month EMS Executive Oversight Board. For more information, including letters of support from all Fire Chiefs, Fire Commissioners and Fire Districts in Whatcom County, along with the 52-page recommendation from the EMS Executive Oversight Board.






Who is EMS

Many different agencies work together to provide Emergency Medical Services in Whatcom County


City of Lynden

City of Lynden
Everson, Nooksack, Deming




VanZandt, Acme, Wickersham


South Lake Whatcom, Glenhaven, and South Bay


Sandy Point


Sumas, Kendall, and Welcome


Lummi Island


North Whatcom Fire and Rescue, Britton Road, Agate Bay, and Van Wyck

WCFD 21 & WCFD 4

WCFD 21 & WCFD 4

City of Bellingham

Ferndale, North Bellingham, and Point Whitehorn


Geneva, Sudden Valley, Lake Samish, Chuckanut, and Yew Street Road


Marietta and Gooseberry Point


Point Roberts




We want to provide answers to keep everyone informed.

What is Prop 1?
Prop 1 is a dedicated source of funding for emergency medical services. This is a 29.5-cent levy that will cost the owner of the average home, assessed at $250,000, $74 per year. That’s 20-cents a day for a fast response if you need to call for help.
Why do we need an ems levy?
It’s likely that you or someone you know in Whatcom County will receive emergency medical care due to a sudden illness or injury. Your Yes on EMS vote for Proposition 1 allows Whatcom County emergency medical technicians and paramedics to continue to respond rapidly when you need them. A fast medical response saves lives.

Whatcom County is a great place to live. However, the current emergency system funding model is unable to keep up as our community grows. We need a stable source of revenue to support our emergency medical services (EMS). A countywide coalition of elected officials and EMS system providers are unified in recommending a 29.5-cent levy to maintain the emergency medical services system.

Prop 1 will cost the average $250,000 Whatcom County homeowner $74 a year. This six-year levy will fund emergency medical personnel and their lifesaving equipment to serve our county. The levy will allow us to add resources to the EMS system as needed. Failure to pass the levy will result in cuts to our current level of service.

When every second counts, Whatcom County’s EMS responders are there for us. Vote Yes on EMS!
Where will this money be spent?
100% of this money will be spent so our local emergency medical responders can save lives in our community and make the overall system more efficient.
  • Supports dispatch costs for Advanced Life Support and Basic Life Support services for local fire and emergency response.
  • Maintains sustainable reserves.
  • Provides the funding for a 5th paramedic unit to meet needs due to increased calls and population growth.
  • Provides BLS support through training programs, equipment exchange program, and a common electronic patient care reporting software.
  • Establishes data and report standards.
  • Integrates an EMS administrator to oversee and coordinate the unified system.
  • Develops and funds an EMS dispatch strategic plan.
What about the sales tax? I thought we already passed an EMS levy in 2005.
In 2005 we passed a public safety sales tax. Revenue from this sales tax is shared by EMS and law enforcement agencies. However, our county population is growing rapidly and we need a new and dedicated source of funding for medical emergencies.

Today our Emergency Medical Services are paid for using the County General Fund, the City of Bellingham General Fund, sales tax revenue and transport fees. This levy will allow the County and Bellingham to no longer subsidize this service – it will be paid for using sales tax, a property tax levy and user transport fees.
What has been done since the 2005 sales tax?
The 2005 sales tax was expected to sustain the system until 2011. Since the passing of the sales tax levy the system has significantly increased BLS transports, has made efforts to send the appropriate resources, and began a community paramedic program. All these system changes have helped to stretch the system until today. Now we need to add stable and dedicated funding to maintain current levels of service and allow the system to be prepared for the future.
Why do we need a new source of funding?
Our community is growing and getting older. It costs more to save lives than it did in 2005. We need a new and stable source of funding to respond to medical emergencies.
How much will this cost me?
This levy will raise 29.5-cents per $1,000 of property valuation. The state allows a levy of 50-cents and the average EMS levy in Washington is 40-cents. This means the owner of the average $250,000 home would pay $74/year for 24-hour paramedic service.
Why do we see fire engines responding to medical emergencies? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just send an ambulance?
The many tasks that need to be completed during a medical emergency can be done more quickly and efficiently by more personnel. Your local fire department can arrive sooner and begin basic care prior to arrival of paramedics.
In an emergency, every minute matters. Having adequate personnel to do the job saves lives.
When a 5th Paramedic Unit is added, where will it be located?
We are not sure yet. We know call volume has increased as our population has increased and gotten older. Our next step will be to track and analyze the data to determine the best location to improve service. In a medical emergency, every minute matters so we want it in the best location to help those in need.
Does this free up over a million dollars for Bellingham to use elsewhere?
No. Bellingham is currently spending reserves to pay for this essential service. The reserves will be depleted in early 2017 and the EMS levy will fill the funding gap.

In The News

County First Responders Correct EMS Levy Misinformation

October 31, 2016 - PRESS RELEASE

(Bellingham, WA) – Today local emergency medical first responders spoke out to clear up misinformation put forward by the Committee of Public Safety, a group formed to oppose the emergency medical services (EMS) levy on this November’s ballot.

“This isn’t about partisan politics for us, this is about saving lives,” said Robert Glorioso, President of Bellingham/Whatcom County Firefighters... (Read More...) EMS Saves Lives Campaign Committee ( October 31, 2016 )

Three sent to Harborview after Monday morning wreck on Lummi Shore   Bellingham Herald ( October 24, 2016 )

Teen driver, four passengers hurt in crash on Lummi Reservation   Bellingham Herald ( October 24, 2016 )

City council hears pitch for Emergency Medical Services levy   The Northern Light ( September 28, 2016 )

Man rescued after fall from 20-foot cliff at Larrabee State Park   Bellingham Herald ( August 15, 2016 )

Bellingham man crashed over a cliff, but was able to call for help   Bellingham Herald ( August 12, 2016 )

Whatcom voters will be asked to raise property taxes for EMS   Bellingham Herald ( June 2, 2016 )

Bellingham cops, medics train to get aid to victims sooner   Bellingham Herald ( April 2, 2016 )

Hiker rescued after 40-foot fall into water at Larrabee State Park   Bellingham Herald ( March 6, 2016 )

Hiker rescued near Nooksack Falls   Bellingham Herald ( January 24, 2016 )

Collaboration, Medical Technology Save Visitor's Life   EMS World

LUCAS 2 survivor story   Lucas-CPR.com

Our Campaign

Community members working to ensure a future for EMS

Marisa Bamesberger
Marisa Bamesberger

Marisa Bamesberger moved to Bellingham in 2009. She had spent 11 of her 13 years as an RN in emergency departments and currently works as a nurse team lead at St Joseph Medical Center's Emergency Department.

Karlee Deatherage
Karlee Deatherage

Karlee Deatherage is a life-long Washingtonian and moved to Bellingham in 2009 to study at WWU. After graduating, Karlee has worked on local campaigns, served as Congresswoman Suzan DelBene Outreach Coordinator in Whatcom and Skagit Counties, and currently works for RE Sources for Sustainable Communities.

Gene Knutson
Gene Knutson

I was born and raised her in Bellingham, I have been on the City Council since 1993, and have worked at Bellingham Cold Storage for 41 years.

April Barker
April Barker

April Barker is a Bellingham Council Member. She relocated to Bellingham in 1999 to attend a WWU graduate program.

Barry Buchanan
Barry Buchanan

Barry Buchanan is currently serving his first term on the Whatcom County Council. His first term began January 2014.

Erica Littlewood Work
Erica Littlewood Work

Erica has lived in Whatcom County since 1988, and is the community educator for South Whatcom Fire Authority. She is also a medical trainer for the Mt Baker Ski Patrol, and has been on the Whatcom County EMS Council for 14 years.

Dr. Ralph Weiche
Dr. Ralph Weiche

Dr Weiche has worked at St. Joseph's emergency department as an attending physician and assistant facility medical director for the past 13 years. His family includes two active boys and together they enjoy a variety of outdoor and athletic adventures.


Ralph Black
Mike Hammes
Nickolaus Lewis
Shannon Terrell
Chris Phillips
Dave Ralston
Kathy Berg
April Mitchelson
Marvin Wayne, M.D.
Duncan McBean, M.D.
Marc Davis
Janice Lapsansky
Heather Flaherty


Endorsements & Support

Groups that said YES to EMS

  • Washington State Nurses Association
  • Whatcom Fire Districts 7,8,11,14,16,18 & 21
  • Whatcom Fire Commissioners
  • SEIU 775NW
  • SEIU 925
  • Institute for Emergency Medical Education
  • Bellingham/Whatcom Firefighters
  • South Whatcom Firefighters Association
  • Washington State Council of Firefighters
  • Lummi Indian Business Council
  • Peace Health
  • Whatcom 7 Firefighters
  • EMS & Trauma Care Council
  • Mt. Baker Ski Area
  • Whatcom Commercial Fishermen's Association
Top Five Contributors:
  • PeaceHealth
  • Raptor Group
  • Lummi Commercial Company
  • Lummi Indian Business Council
  • Bellingham/Whatcom Firefighters Local 106

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EMS Saves Lives
PO Box 1024
Bellingham, WA 98227
(360) 220-7219
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