A new year brings new EMS chief to San Juans

By Anna V. Smith

Journal reporter

January brings a new year, and for San Juan Island this year it also brings a new Emergency Medical Services Chief. After months of reviewing applications and conducting interviews, San Juan Island EMS has chosen Jerry Martin to be the new chief, starting Jan. 1, 2016.

“San Juan EMS and MedEvac has a long history of great people providing exceptional service to the community,” Martin said. “It is an honor to be selected as its next chief. My plan for the department is to maintain the level of excellence the community has come to expect from its EMS providers.”

Martin currently lives in Blaine, Wash., north of Bellingham located on the coast and near the Canadian border.

“My wife Karin and I are looking forward to being part of the San Juan community,” Martin said. “We currently live south of Birch Bay, west of Ferndale. It’s small, with the bay just three rock throws away. Very similar to San Juan Island, just without the ferry.”

Martin added he is currently working on a SWOT analysis, a strategy to determine strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. He is also beginning to work on a 100 day plan that will focus on getting to know the current EMS system, the island’s responders and developing relationships with emergency response organizations and community groups, associations and individuals.

“My passion is patient care,” Martin said. “As the island’s new EMS chief, I have the opportunity to combine my passion with years of preparation to become a chief. After all, it’s all about excellent patient care for those we have the privilege to serve.”

He also said that getting to communicate with the community is a priority, and getting to know their needs.

Martin’s first experience with emergency response was when he answered an ad for “live-in firefighters” for Grant County Fire District #8 while attending Big Bend Community College’s Aviation Program. The experience piqued his interest, and after two years of college he transferred to Western Washington University and joined Whatcom County Fire District #17 and attended an EMT class.

After becoming an EMT, Martin volunteered for King County Fire District #10. In 1983, Martin enrolled at Tacoma Community College’s paramedic program. He then took a job at Boeing Fire Department until 1990, when he joined Bellingham Fire Department.

In 2007, after two years instructing paramedic training, Martin was hired as a Division Chief of Emergency Medical Services/Medical Services Officer for Whatcom County Fire District #7 where he was given the mission to train firefighters as paramedics and develop a paramedic program.

“Assisted by some very talented firefighters, fire departments, elected officials and the medical community, we met our goals and objectives and now today, Whatcom County Fire District #7’s paramedics are part of Whatcom County’s emergency services,” Martin said.

Over that time period he also developed several programs for the county, including a prevention program and a teenage heart screening program in high schools.

Martin said that some notable differences between Whatcom County and San Juan County is the logistics of transportation. Compared to the ease of driving to a health care facility that can perform the work required, the islands provide a more complicated arrangement at times. In addition, calling in outside agencies for assistance can be difficult since it’s such an isolated area.

Martin said he recognized he is an “outsider coming in” to the community, and while he’s eager to get started, he isn’t planning on making big changes from the get-go. Instead, he said he plans on becoming acquainted with the area and then making small changes after understanding the system.

“I’m coming into this wide-eyed, and I’m looking at this for me personally as growth. I don’t think there’s going to be a whole lot of changes or blazing guns when I get in there,” Martin said. “We’re going to answer the calls and do what we’re caste to do.”